Rhetorical analysis of Job 38

Sitting here in photo class with nothing to do (no film to develop yet), looking through my folder on the server, I found this assignment I did for Humanities last semester, a rhetorical analysis of God’s speech in Job 38 (don’t ask why). It’s a great example of how to look beyond the soul-crushing nature of these sorts of assignments and have a little fun. So as a public service, I’m sharing it here:

The purpose of God’s speech in the passage of Job 38 is to decry the arrogance and hubris of Job. God achieves this with the use of high diction and repetitive rhetoric to make clear His superiority to man in general, Job specifically. The intended effect is to instill in Job a fear of God and a feeling of inferiority towards Him.

God appears to Job out of a whirlwind, immediately creating the impression that this is not a mere man who walks the earth, but an otherworldly being capable of much more than Job. God immediately launches into a long tirade about how nobody appreciates Him, and offers up the myriad ways in which He is better than His audience. The repetitive nature of His speech (many sentences begin with similar words and virtually identical syntax) repeatedly employs the rhetorical question to reinforce the idea that God is all-knowing and all-seeing and… well… Job just isn’t. “Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if thou knowest it all.” Job, of course, hasn’t perceived the breadth of the earth and doesn’t knowest it all, and therefore has no choice but to remain silent. This method of speech has the effect of preventing His audience from interrupting with arguments to His rhetoric.

It must be remembered here that God has the advantage, as He already knows what Job is going to do and say in the future.

God’s attempts to make clear His vast power also reveal His vast depth of responsibility to His creation. Not only can He provideth for the raven his food; He must provideth for the raven his food, or the raven will wander for lack of meat. These indications of responsibility show that God has at least some understanding of basic cause and effect.*

This speech holds the audience’s attention not through humorous devices or descriptive language, but rather through forceful rhetoric. There is no metaphor, as God functions on the cosmic level and thus no metaphors are needed to highlight His power and importance. God wants to correct Job and all who question his power. As such, the most effective approach is to overwhelm. Much like the Wizard of Oz, He appears in a stunning mirage (in this case, a whirlwind). He speaks with the direct goal to instill awe, respect, and fear in His audience. At this He ultimately achieves, because He’s God. God knows all and sees all and therefore understands the most effective way to approach His audience. Whatever he does must, by definition, be effective, making this entire analysis totally superfluous.

* This is, however, debatable.

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