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“Job” (the first Job painting)
by William Orpen

… the patience of Job

an idiom birthed in the strength of an Old Testament prophet who refused to curse God and die.

I have been pondering Job over the past few months … pondering his time of sitting on the dung heap.

The image (above) of Job on his dung heap, naked and (with the image of a man walking away) alone spoke loudest to me of all the paintings of him by all the greatest painters. Painted by Irish painter William Orpen before or around 1900. Later he was dispatched as an artist to the Western Front in WW1. His paintings (and poem) inspired from his visit to the site of the Battle of Somme resonated with me as I looked a this image of the prophet Job, alone after the ravages of the war he was forced to fight.

Why was Job sitting on a dung heap?

Actually, some versions say he was sitting on ashes, not a dung heap. From my research it was both. The solid waste of animals would be taken to a select spot just outside the village, where it would … bake in the sun and eventually would be burnt (no doubt to eliminate smell as well as bacteria). It is there, on this ashy dung heap, where those who were undesirable outcasts (economically, socially or physical conditions) would sit and beg.

It would seem that Job had lost just about everything in his life … his livestock, servants, children and his health. His body was covered with sores. His only relief was scraping his sores (releasing the painful pressure, perhaps) with a broken piece of clay. His wife had told him to curse God and die. His friends inquired of what sin he had committed.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of the children’s story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of some of the seasons in the lives of us all.

More on what the dung heap teaches us next time.

In the meantime, click here and read Job 1-3 … it’ll just take a few minutes (and that’s coming from one who reads so slowly). This will help to prepare us for the dung heap.

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