It is common to read the biblical book of Job in the context of the so called Babylonian Theodicy and this is an abnormally interesting connection. But here I’d like to think about three lines in the Babylonian Theodicy in the context of ancient the art of divination. I follow Lambert’s 86-7, reading and somewhat free but very serviceable translation.
256) [l]i-ib-bi ili ki-ma qi-rib šamêe né-si-ma
257) le-é-a-us-su šup-šu-qat-ma nišiMEŠ la lam-da
264) [l]i-‘-id mi-na-a pak-ki ilim-ma nišiMEŠ la lam-da
256) The divine mind, like the centre of the heavens, is remote;
257) Knowledge of it is difficult; the masses do not know it.
264) Though a man may observe what the will of the god is, the masses do not know it.
The people at large do not know the mind (heart) of the god nor can they observe the will (reason) of the god. But in contrast to the masses, there are those who can both know the mind of the god and observe the god’s will. Professionals with special training in the craft of divination could know such things or so it was thought. If one turns to the Hebrew Bible, with the exception of priests and then I think only under rather controlled circumstances, the god made his mind known to sometimes unwilling non-professionals. But even then he did not make his mind known directly to the masses who often appear more resistive to the news than were the paying clients of professional diviners.
But, of course, I think there is a reason that the divine mind is remote – a reason that may will have occurred to the biblical author who Loren Fisher calls Rebel Job. And with that we have come full circle.
Lambert, W. G., Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996)