Original Research

Signs of sexuality in a book about death seen through a psychoanalytic lens: Paradox and parody in play and perversion

Pieter van der Zwan
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2638 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2638 | © 2023 Pieter van der Zwan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 July 2022 | Published: 24 April 2023

About the author(s)

Pieter van der Zwan, Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, Netherlands


Whereas the Song of Songs can be said to be about Eros, the Book of Job could be about Thanatos. Yet, the Song ends with a crucial reference to death, and in the Book of Job there are subtle traces of sexuality: the first chapter tells about probably promiscuous parties held by Job’s children who then die during such a feast. Job reacts by referring to the womb, which presumably has sexual connotations. The womb is once again an issue in chapters 3 and 10. Twice he mentions breasts, although negatively connoted. In his last speech, Job suddenly refers several times to hypothetical transgressions with women, which betrays his hidden desires behind his piety. In addition, apart from body-parts such as the feet, hands and heart, a tail, loins and even a nose might sometimes be interpreted as euphemisms with phallic hints. In the final chapter his three ‘new’ daughters are the most beautiful in the world, perhaps presenting him as eventually allowing his libido to be re-introjected. Through a psychoanalytical lens it is, however, possible to make sense of this unexpected presence of sexual traces in a book about death.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Approaching texts from a psychoanalytical perspective challenges historical-critical exegesis by questioning its assumption that universality dissolves into historicity. It adds unconscious aspects of a text, here interpreting unexpected traces of sexuality in a book about mourning. This is done in a divergent way by pointing out various possible understandings.


Book of Job; psychoanalytical; sexuality; mourning; Török.


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