E240 Bible Questions -- Genesis, Job, etc.

Assigned: from The King James Bible. From Genesis (52-77), from Job (77-93).

From Genesis

1. In Chapters 1-2, how and why does God create the earth and the heavens? To what extent does the text posit answers to such questions? What is the traditional view of the relationship between God and his creatures? (Look up the phrase "creation ex nihilo").

2. In Chapters 2-3, how does the text handle the first sin -- how much detail are we given with regard to God's reasons for placing the forbidden tree in Eden, and the circumstances and thoughts that lead to Eve's transgression?

3. In Chapters 3-4, how does God respond to the sinful behavior of Adam and Eve, and then Cain? Does the text clarify his reasoning in acting as he does? What seems to be the principle behind the punishments that he distributes to those who have sinned?

4. In Chapters 6-9 (Noah's Ark), and 11 (Tower of Babel), what patterns emerge in the Fall's aftermath? How does the source of sin remain the same even as its varieties multiply? Moreover, Christian theology posits that God is all-knowing and all-powerful; what thoughts and feelings does Genesis ascribe to God as he confronts the wickedness and illegitimate ambitions of earth's people?

5. In Chapter 22, God "tempts" Abraham – what is the nature of this temptation? What would have constituted failure, or partial failure? What promise does God make to Abraham once he passes his test? Also, discuss this chapter's narrative style of -- how much detail is offered to us? What is omitted that a modern storyteller might dwell upon at length?

6. In Chapters 25 and 27, Jacob wrests from Esau both his birthright and his father's blessing. What prompts him to do these things? How do you interpret the moral of this story – why is it acceptable that Jacob should do such things to his brother? How does Isaac comfort his favorite son Esau, who has been tricked along with his father?

7. In Chapters 37 and 39-46, Joseph (the son of Jacob, renamed "Israel" by God) is sold into slavery by his brothers, but later becomes the Egyptian Pharaoh's chief administrator. What special power does Joseph have, and how is that power both the cause of his initial troubles and his eventual exaltation? Discuss also this episode's emphasis on suffering, sacrifice, and redemption.

From Job

8. In Chapters 1-2, on what grounds does Satan repeatedly challenge God's claims about his "perfect" servant Job? How does Job justify those claims by his initial response?

9. In Chapters 3-7, Job's friend Eliphaz argues with him about the cause of his troubles. How does Eliphaz understand Job's downfall and his continuing claims of uprightness? How does Job rebuke Eliphaz and, moreover, what is he determined at this point to do?

10. Next, in Chapters 9-13, Job argues with Bildad and Zophar, who set forth much the same worldly opinions about their friend as did Eliphaz. How does Job answer their accusations, and what attitude towards his predicament does he take up in addressing God directly?

11. In Chapters 14 and 30-31, Job lists the good things he has done – taken together, what picture of his former, prosperous, life emerges from the list he provides? And at this point in the text, to what extent does Job truly understand his predicament?

12. In Chapters 38-41, God finally responds to Job's pleas with a voice "out of the whirlwind." By what means does God build up for Job a sense of his infinite power and wisdom – what creatures, things, and processes does he employ to convey this sense?

13. In Chapter 42, Job responds one last time, and God rewards him richly. What has Job said and done (or not said and done) that leads God to restore his fortune? Why isn't his restoration to wealth and dignity equivalent to the kind of "material reward for moral goodness" scheme posited by Job's false friends?

14. A general question – almost all Bible readers have found this book magnificent, yet some have also found it disturbing. What relationship between humanity and God does the story set forth? Is God "just" in terms that we can understand? Or is that not the point? Explain your thoughts on how Job's God deals with his creatures and on what insights we should draw from Job's sufferings, his response to them, and God's response to him.

Edition: Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volumes 1ABC. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0-393-97755-2, B = 0-393-97756-0, C = 0-393-97757-9.