Don’t you hate a happy ending?
Many find the Epilogue too good to be true. At best, it has the ring of a fairy tale–it might even be pure silliness. It ends like a bad movie. At worst, it underscores the satan’s point–people serve God for profit. Job is rewarded; Job profits.
Some dismiss it as an orthodox attempt to defend the principle of distributive justice–in the end, everyone gets what they deserve. Others value it as an ironic twist by the narrator who offers a back-handed slap at orthodox defenders. It functions as a reductio ad absurdum.
However, these perspectives miss the real point. The drama of the work was resolved in Job 42:5-6. This is the conclusion of the matter. Job experiences God and his lament has become praise.
Job is comforted before the Epilogue. He finds comfort in Yahweh’s presence, address, and grace. The story is “resolved” in that encounter. The story of Job’s lament ends at 42:6 before his prosperity is restored. Indeed, the book could have ended at that point.
But it did not. So, what is the point or purpose of the Epilogue? Let me suggest a few perspectives.
The Epilogue is the narrator’s comment on the previous drama. The narrator makes it clear that the friends were wrong and Job was right. Yahweh makes this clear: “My anger burns against you [Eliphaz] and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (spoken twice in 42:7-8!). What is “right” uses a verb that mans to be set up, established, fixed, or substantiated (BDB). Job is God’s servant and his prayer is effective for his friends. Job served as a priestly mediator for his friends–a most gracious act on his part.
The narrator/editor gives the readers a retrospective hermeneutical lens for reading the dialogues…just in case there is any doubt. The Epilogue functions, at least in this respect, to underscore the integrity of Job, the rightness of his speech, and the erroneous speech of the friends. The narrator places his stamp of approval on Job with Yahweh’s own words.
The critique of the Epilogue often turns, however, on the fact that Yahweh restored Job’s fortunes. But it is important to note that God does not restore his fortunes in the light of his “repentance” (as many read Job 42:6) but in the light of his priestly act for his friends. God restored Job’s blessings “when he had prayed for his friends.” The “reward” (if we want to use that language) is not a “reward” for his response to Yahweh’s speeches, but a “reward” (if you will) for how he loved his friends. Job, paradigmatically, assumes the role that Israel had in the world–he served as a priest among his friends just as Israel served as a priest among the nations.
The significance of this point is that this has nothing to do with the satan’s question in the Prologue. That was answered in 42:5-6. Yahweh blesses Job in the context of his love for his friends.
But I think we can say more. It is significant that Job receives a “double” portion. That is an inheritance portion; it is a sign of special favor. The firstborn receives double (Deuteronomy 21:17). Hannah received a “double” portion because she was loved (1 Samuel 3:5). Elisha received a “double portion” as the successor of Elijah (2 Kings 2:9), and it is eschatological language in Isaiah 61:7. Serving as a priest among his friends, Job received a “double portion” just as Israel as a priest among the nations receives a double portion.
Job’s blessings are a figure of eschatological inheritance. It is an act of divine grace; it is a gift, unearned and undeserved. It is not profit, but gift. The “happy” ending is a blessed ending, a foretaste of eschatological joy.
What did God find in Job? He found a person who did not turn from wisdom–he continued to fear and turn away from evil. Job maintained his integrity. Though he lamented–often bitterly–he nevertheless trusted.
What did God find in Job? He found what Jesus said the Son of Man will be looking for when he returns to earth. Will the Son of Man faith upon the earth he comes again (Luke 18:8)?
Job is every person and every person is Job. Everyone is involved in the cosmic question–do we serve God for profit? Will we persevere in faith even when the circumstances are tragic? Will Jesus find us living in faith when he returns?