Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Random Diversion 2

Still working on the house; thought I'd dig up another one of my 'literary efforts' to share. I wrote this in 2000...it's very similar to the first one I shared; giving my take on a Biblical character who is frequently, I think, misunderstood and maligned. Anyway, for those of you who have time for a cup of coffee, here's...something different:

Dear CJ,
We found the following diary or journal on the third week of the dig. Bronswell and I both believe it to be significant, if not authentic. It was inscribed on clay tablets, with bits of decomposed papyri lying about that it seems to have been copied from, or perhaps was being copied to. The translation was done by Tim Norbert—he said he made an idiomatic translation rather than word-for-word, to try and catch the flavor of the manuscript; I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Read it over and let me know what you think.
Yours, Bettina


2 Ziv -- J. conducting business with Bildad. Last of the sacrificial sheep slaughtered; J. to go day after tomorrow to select next batch. Bebai very excited to have permission to join his siblings in Adin’s feast tomorrow. Have been invited, but J. needs to finish business and I have beginnings of a head cold and need to see to the bread baking. Think we’ll stay home. Weather hot for this time of year.

3 Ziv -- O horrible day! Such a day should not be! Must make the effort to tell this; no one will believe the catastrophes that have befallen us today...Saw Bebai safely off with Uthai to Adin’s and began baking bread. After noon meal, Bildad and J. completed business and B. left, then the news began. First, it was Shimei, terrified and bleeding, who burst into the house and announced that the Sabeans had attacked while they were doing the plowing and had stolen all the oxen and the donkeys grazing in the next field. His coworkers were slaughtered. He was wounded but managed to come home to tell the news. Just as he was saying, “I alone have escaped” -- unbelievably, we would hear those same words three more times -- Ahimaz came in crying “Master! Master!” He was near hysterics and it was all we could do to calm him enough to hear his tale. He said that fire of God (I have never heard of such a thing) fell from heaven on the pasture where the sheep were grazing, and the sheep and the rest of the shepherds perished. “I alone have escaped” he said with a sob, but before the words were out of his mouth, Jalam staggered into the room bleeding even worse than Shimei and fell on the ground. At length he managed to tell us that three bands of Chaldeans had attacked the camel caravans and slaughtered all the servants and stolen the camels and the goods they were carrying. As he was gasping “I alone have escaped,” Elizear came in with his garments torn and ashes on his head, grieving, with the worst news of all. “Oh, my Master and Mistress! Great distress has fallen upon your house! As your children were all feasting with Adin, an incredible wind blew hard and,” he gulped here and began to weep anew, “ The house fell with all the children inside. I was in the yard, and I saw it all. Everyone died. I alone have escaped.” Then he wailed, “Oh, my Master and Mistress! It is an evil day!” J. and I sat still for a time as he wailed, then J. stood up, tore his robe and fell face down on the ground. He was weeping as he said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I go out of the world. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away -- blessed be the name of the Lord!” I have wept and wailed all day, but it will not bring my children back to me. I don’t understand why God should decide to destroy all we have or hold dear. J. is no help. He shakes his head when I ask him “Why?” and says we should be grateful for what we have had and enjoyed. He has gone with half of the household servants to excavate Adin’s house to collect the bodies -- Ah, God, my children! -- so that we may have a proper burial for them. Ahimaz has taken the rest of the servants to bury what bodies of the servants they can find; I have been tending Shimei and Jalam; S. will probably mend well enough, I’m not so sure about Jalam. Not one of our neighbors has come to sit and grieve with us.

4 Ziv--The men worked by torchlight last night and managed to recover all of the bodies of the children. I worked today to wrap them with the burial spices. A more horrible thing I have never had to do. They were all so mangled and broken. The maids helped, or I could not have done it. None of the neighbors have come by. Zilpha says that the gossip at the well is that we are under a curse and they are all afraid of angering God by showing mercy to a house he has condemned. Angering God! If anything we have done has angered God, then all of humanity should have been wiped from the face of the earth long ago. I know my husband and my children -- there is nothing that should have resulted in this kind of judgment. I would like to know why. Just one question -- WHY??? We lay the children in the burial tomb tomorrow. May God give us strength to do it, especially as he has left us with little else. Shimei some better today, Jalam feverish.

5 Ziv--J. and I and the servants laid the children in the tomb; the professional mourners would not even come to our aid. Even two of the house servants begged to be released today for fear the curse will extend to them. J. says that we are nearly penniless now and may have to sell some of the ground to get ourselves back on our feet and pay the creditors for the goods the camels were carrying, along with the wages for the hired servants. I do not feel we need so many servants with so little to care for, but perhaps he is right. He says there is still more to life ahead of us and that God is faithful and we will be restored. I do not know why God would strike such a blow if he intended to restore it all to us. I cannot conceive of going on with life as it is. What is there to live for? Our friends have abandoned us, the servants are nervous and the God we have served so faithfully has proven himself either unfaithful or uninterested. The children are all gone...why bother? I fear Jalam dying as well.

(here a piece of the tablet was broken and some of the words are missing)

...at noon today. We wrapped him in the cloths and gave him to his people, who hissed at us. I wept after they left, but J. scolded me and said we should be willing to let God have that which he had only lent to us. What glory does his God get if we are bereft of everything and our name is only a hissing in the street? J. went to the city gate to sell a piece of ground, but no one would buy it, calling it cursed. We have had to dismiss as many of the servants as could find a place to go, which was nearly all of them. Only old Ammihud and his wife Keturah are left to us. J. has no animals from which to choose a sacrifice, but he had the weekly worship today anyway, calling on God and thanking him for his blessings to us. I left. If we have had God’s blessing, I think I would rather be cursed.

9 Ziv--Oh, God, what has your servant done that you inflict him so? J. began to break out in boils today and the townspeople drove him out, saying he would bring calamity on them as well. He has gone out to the garbage pile to sit and mourn, scraping the boils when they pain him too much. I went to the well for water today and was nearly driven off. I have decided to go at an odd hour from now on. I sit and weep for hours at a time. Only Keturah speaks to me with any sympathy. It’s as if we were suddenly a household of lepers. I see no future for us.
What shall I do if he dies? Oh, that I could die myself and be done with it! Life is evil, evil!

10 Ziv--This is a living nightmare. I took some pottage to J. at the garbage pile; he is boils from head to toe and looks absolutely miserable. His face is swollen and he is scarcely recognizable. It broke my heart to see him so, and I couldn’t believe his God is allowing such a faithful servant to suffer so. “Why?” I said, “Why? Why? Why?” J. said God must have his reasons, which made me absolutely furious. There just can be no reason for this.
“How can you say that?” I demanded, “Where has it gotten you? Sitting in a dung heap covered with boils! Curse God and die! Give it up! Then I can lie down and die, too, and be done with this whole mess.” I don’t remember what else I said, but J. got really angry with me. “Watch your tongue, woman!” he scolded, “You’re talking like an idiotic pagan woman. Listen to me...we will not accept just good from God, but also whatever adversity he sends our way. Do you understand me?” I think his illness must have addled his brain. I wish I understood why all of this is happening...

11 Ziv--J. even worse than yesterday; blisters in his mouth making it difficult to eat. What is the use of anything?

12 Ziv--Weather turning very hot and humid. J. still miserable.

13 Ziv--Hot. Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar came from their cities, having just heard of our misfortune. They brought Elihu with them and have all joined J. at the garbage heap, weeping and wailing and throwing dust on themselves. At least someone cares enough about us to come and mourn.

14 Ziv--Still hot. Bildad and friends still with J., nobody is speaking...or eating much, either. I’ve made two trips to the well today; I think they will need plenty of water, sitting out in the sun like that. It’s such a difference from the hospitality we offered them the last time any of them were here.

15 Ziv--Heat merciless. No change in anything.

16 Ziv--No relief in (it looks like water has been dripping on the tablet; the rest of the words on this tablet are obliterated)

19 Ziv--There must be some break in the weather soon. Thunderheads have sprung up around us again today, but there has been no rain. The men at the garbage pile are nearly ill from the heat. Still, no one is speaking. I wonder how much longer this is going to last...

20 Ziv--Well, the silence is broken. When I took the men their water at noon, they were engaged in a heated discussion. Seems they are trying to convince J. to confess the secret sin he must have hidden from everyone but God. So they, too, think that all this has been some sort of deserved punishment. Even now, I can hear them all yelling at each other out there. Thunder still in the distance; heat still oppressive.

21 Ziv--Incredible things happened today. Began with continued heat. Elihu was speaking when I took the water at midmorning; shortly after noon, a tremendous storm broke. Neither I nor the servants have ever seen anything like it. It went on forever with thunder that seemed about to shake the house apart. We cowered in a corner and wondered how the men at the garbage heap were withstanding the storm. To our surprise, after the storm they all came in smiling and amazed. They said God had spoken out of a whirlwind of the storm and said that Job had done what was right, and had commanded the others to bring him seven bulls and seven rams so that J. could make sacrifices and pray for them. Job washed himself -- the boils are much better -- while the others went to the town to buy animals for sacrifice. Just before evening Job called us all out for the sacrifices and we had quite a worship service. People from the town came out and sat with us: at least the testimony of Job’s friends seems to have put us back in favor with the townsfolk. While the sacrifices were being made, all of J.’s brothers and sisters arrived, bringing bread and other food. We had a feast of sorts with all the guests, and everyone mourned with us and consoled us for the evil things that had happened. Then, when everyone left, each household left us a gold ring and a piece of silver. Job retired this evening making plans of how to invest the small fortune we now have. I do not claim to understand God, but it looks like things are turning around. I don’t think I will ever again take my blessings for granted.

(Here the clay tablets end…the remaining fragments were too fine to reassemble.. However, according to Job 42:12, we must suppose that Job did quite well investing his ‘small fortune.’)

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