Re the Daily Office Readings August 20 Anno Domini 2020

Job and his family by William Blake

The Lessons: Job 1:1-22; Acts 8:26-40; John 6:16-27

Today we begin the prodigy that is the Book of Job. It is “about” multiple things, not least of which is the adversary’s question “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (This is, perhaps, the flip side of the issue of simony that we met in yesterday’s Acts reading!)

‘The adversary’ or ‘the accuser’: the NRSV, oddly, translates as ‘Satan’. But in Job the word always appears with the definite article, so it’s not yet a proper name. In any case, having moved the plot along, the figure does not reappear after chapter 2.

Re what Job’s “about,” Davis, noticing that Job, like Jeremiah, curses the day of his birth (Job 3:1-26; Jer 20:14-18) and that Job’s suffering looks like the servant’s in Isaiah (52:13-53:12), suggests: “These [and other] various connections align this wisdom book with the two prophetic traditions that deal most directly with the problem of massive suffering in relation to Jerusalem’s destruction and the Babylonian exile, suffering that defies comprehension and feels like the enmity of God” (Opening Israel’s Scriptures). How does one respond to such suffering?

The Ethiopian is reading from Isa 52:13-53:12 when he encounters Philip. “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” doesn’t have a single correct answer—Stephen, newly buried, comes to mind—but Philip’s proclaiming Jesus is more than appropriate.

How much of Isaiah is Luke pointing to in this story? After introducing the Ethiopian (v.27), he thereafter refers to him simply as “the eunuch” (four times). Is it accidental that it’s in Isaiah that we encounter the following?

3 Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from his people”;
and do not let the eunuch say,
“I am just a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant–
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples. (56:3-7)

The servant about whom the eunuch is reading is key to making this vision a reality.

John: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” Texts like these are the reason we understand that in the Hebrew idiom—and other languages influenced by that idiom—“Not A, but B” may mean “While A is important, B is more important.” This launches a long conversation which reveals why John the Evangelist noted the proximity of the feeding to Passover (v.4): rather than record the institution of the Eucharist at Passover, the Gospel of John gives us a long reflection on the Eucharist here.

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