Advent offering 17 December

Given the rather feisty weather Auckland has been experiencing today, I thought I’d bring an element of that into today’s advent offering. William Blake’s depiction of God appearing to Job in the whirlwind is a marvellous portrayal of the extraordinary – the meeting of divine and human upon a sweeping vista of cosmic creativity. Within the poetry of Job 38-41, this is a terrifying event, with the deity overwhelming a cowering Job, seeming to bully him into submission with a visual overload of divine power. And yet, Blake manages to bring this remarkable literary event to us using images that are both lyrical and familiar, inviting us to regard Job’s theophanic encounter as an orchestrated performance intended to inspire his awe and wonder, rather than his terror. The deity swoops gracefully towards us, his arms outstretched like a dancer or gymnast, his lush hair and flowing beard sweeping around a gentle, handsome face. Even the whirlwind itself holds no threat, composed as it is of angelic bodies, whose aim seems less to inspire fear than to play their choreographed part in this divine performance. This vision of Blake’s God – and his whirlwind – may not have taken away from Job the bitter pall of his intense and unjustified suffering at the hands of the deity, but, had he seen it, it may at least have provided him with a moment of respite, a flicker of warmth within an otherwise dark and hope-less time.

God_answers_Job_from_the_Whirlwind_1803-05_(Butlin_461),_detail
William Blake, God answers Job from the whirlwind (1803-1805)
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2 thoughts on “Advent offering 17 December

  1. cedar51 December 18, 2014 / 8:07 am

    That whirlwind certainly does not have a menacing feel, as the painting with Cain…the scene doesn’t appear to relate, for me anyway, with a God who is questioning Job on various matters, rather for me it portrays that I’m telling you softly – the colours are soft and have a soft feeling. Whereas the poetry within the passage seems hard and “I’m in charge, you know” feeling.

    As if the central figure is wrapped in swaddling cloth before being released to carry on in the world, a fledging bird learning to fly…

    Like

  2. Caroline Blyth December 18, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    I like your image of a bird trying to fly. Or a dancer concentrating on his moves? As you say, this seems a million miles away from the stern God Job encounters in the biblical book.

    Like

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