A man and his god (Job 29)

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A broken Akkadian tablet (pictured above) from the Old Babylonian period, sometimes called “A man and his god”, describes the lament of a young man who is suffering from some dreadful but unspecified disease. He groans, weeps and cries out to his god for help. Although the text is fragmentary, it is clear that the man wrestles with the question of how he may have sinned against his god and concludes that he has committed blasphemy. In the end, his god pronounces a blessing on him, promises that he will prosper and encourages him to donate food to the poor.

At first glance the tablet may strike many readers as being similar to Job, with its pitiable account of the sufferer’s lamentation, his struggle with the problem of sin and divine justice and his final deliverance by divine intervention. An important difference between the two texts, however, is that the young man of the Akkadian text finally recognized and confessed his sin, whereas Job expressly declared himself to be a righteous man who was suffering because of his virtue and not because of some sin. The Akkadian text thus lacks the profundity of the problem posed by Job: that of the righteous sufferer.


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