Job — Where Is God When We’re Hurting?
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The first in what scholars refer to as the ‘Wisdom Literature’ of the Bible, Job is a perfect transition between the historical books of Israel and the Psalms. It begins and ends with prose, describing events in heaven and on earth, but the majority of its content is classic Middle-eastern poetry. This book raises and partially answers the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
Who was Job? Although some experts contend Job was an allegorical character created by some post-exilic writer or a sage during the days of King Solomon or Hezekiah, the Scriptures indicate he was an actual person—probably alive during the days of the Patriarchs. Because this book does not mention Israel as a nation, and Job lived to well past the age of 140 (Job 42:16), it appears the events of Job took place sometime between Jacob and the Exodus. Both Old and New Testament writings refer to him as a historical figure (See Ezekiel 14:14 & 20; James 5:11).
A careful study of the genealogies of Genesis gives us some possible clues to Job’s identity and that of his friends. Genesis 46:13 mentions a son of Issachar named Job. Eliphaz and the Temanites are mentioned as descendants of Esau (Gen. 36:9-18, 34 & 40-43). Although Bildad was not mentioned by name, the ancestor of the Shuhites was a son of Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2). “Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2) was most likely a descendant of Abraham’s brother Nahor, through his second son Buz (Gen. 22:20-21).
Job Chapter 1
The main character of this book is introduced as a resident of Uz who “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He had ten children—seven boys and three girls—who at the time of this story were apparently all adults (vv. 2 & 4-5). He owned thousands of sheep, cattle, camels and donkeys, plus many servants—making Job “the greatest of all the people of the East” [probably referring to the territory east ofCanaan, where the Arameans lived (Gen. 10:23)] (Job 1:3).
In addition to being morally upright, Job was a devout worshiper of God and a concerned father. Verse five says it was his custom to offer sacrifices and pray for his children, just in case they might have “sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”
Following this introduction of Job, the scene shifts from earth to heaven. In verse six we see the “Sons of God” (i.e.—angels and demons) reporting YHWH. Among them is Satan, “the Accuser,” himself. Asked where he’d come from, the devil replied, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (7).
God then brought up the integrity of Job, to which Satan replied, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (8-9). He reminded the Lord how He had carefully protected and blessed everything Job possessed, and said, were Job to lose all that, he would “surely curse You to Your face!” (10-11).
Confident of His servant’s faithfulness, God took up Satan’s challenge, but He set boundaries for their wager: “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” (12). The enemy could only do to Job what God allowed, which shows that his power is limited by God’s greater authority. So Satan left God’s presence, prepared to unleash his worst against this favored servant of YHWH.
The devil wasted no time destroying everything that Job considered precious! In one day, he destroyed Job’s sheep and children, and had raiders steal all the camels, oxen and donkeys. All but a few of his servants were killed, as well, and those that escaped came and told their master the bad news regarding his terrible losses (13-19). After the successive reports of these disasters, Job refused to accuse God of any wrong-doing (22). He tore his clothes and shaved his head in grief, and then fell to the ground in worship, saying,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD” (21).
What amazing perspective and faith!
Job Chapter 2
Satan’s second attempt to prove God wrong involved Job’s own body. When he appeared before the Lord the next time, YHWH pointed out that Job still trusted his God, even though “you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:1-3). Satan retorted, “Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (vv. 4-5). Again, the Lord accepted the challenge, but on the condition that Satan could not take his life (6).
Satan immediately went and struck Job with what sounds like a horrible case of smallpox or a related disease. The poor man was covered from head to toe with painful boils so agonizing he used a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself. The condition must’ve been contagious, as well, for Job isolated himself, sitting alone on an ash heap (7-8).
Job’s sons and daughters had been taken from him, but his wife remained. She was apparently having a hard time dealing with the losses of her children and their wealth and now her husband’s ill health. She said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (9). What do you want to bet that those words were whispered in her ears by the devil himself, attempting to use Job’s own spouse to induce him to sin?
The saint’s reply: “You talk like a godless woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10, New Living Translation).
When Job’s friends heard of all the calamity that had befallen him, they made an appointment to meet together at his place to console him. However, when Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite saw Job they could hardly recognize him. They cried aloud, tore their robes and threw dust up in the air to express their horror. Then they sat with their friend in the dirt for an entire week, without uttering a word. (vv. 11-13).
Job Chapter 3
When Job found his voice again, he spoke bitterly against the day of his birth (Job 3:1). He wished that day could go down in infamy because he wasn’t stillborn or didn’t die shortly after childbirth (vv. 2-11). He was sorry his mother had nursed him—only to grow up and experience such heartache (12).
It would be better to have died and been at rest, he told his companions, than to live in misery (13-22). He felt God had hidden the way of peace and prosperity from him, had hedged him in, and had made him too ill even to enjoy the simple pleasure of a meal (23-24). “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me”—so much so that he couldn’t even find relief in sleep (25-26).
An Important Note
Before we go on in our discussion of this book, let me explain an essential concept in biblical interpretation. While it’s a fact that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), not everything in the Bible is true in the sense that it should be believed and obeyed. Now, before you log off and dismiss this site as heretical, let me continue.
For example, in Genesis 3:1-5 we find the dialog between Eve and the serpent. While it is the inspired record of the conversation that took place between these two, we know that when the serpent told Eve, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), it was a bald-faced lie that contradicted what God had told Adam at the beginning (Gen. 2:17). Therefore, although it is in the Bible and it’s important to teach us about the dangers of temptation, it’s not something we should memorize, quote and live by, because it is a statement of untruth from an unreliable source, the devil.
How does this relate to Job? According to YHWH, Job’s friends were not in step with God’s wisdom when they offered ‘comfort’ to him—they misrepresented the Lord and misapplied certain principles to their friend (Job 42:7-8). So when people quote the platitudes of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar out of context, they are often just as guilty as these men were of misrepresenting God and His truth! Job, on the other hand, spoke rightly of God (although the Lord dealt with some of his attitudes and self-concept in chapters 38-41). With this in mind, we must always check to see who is speaking in a passage and make sure it lines up with the rest of God’s word before we accept something as a truism for our lives.
Job Chapter 4
When a person is in pain, sometimes it’s better just to be still and let them process. It’s not always necessary to say something spiritual or straighten them out. Job’s friends had the right idea when they first came to him. It’s too bad they felt compelled to say something in response to his remarks in Chapter 3.
Eliphaz was the first to respond to Job’s curse on the day of his birth. In verses 1-5, he reminded Job how he had counseled people through their tough times, yet said he was being unreasonable now that calamity had befallen him.
Had he stopped there, Eliphaz might have been okay. But he went on to say, “Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?” (v. 6). Eliphaz’s implication was that Job was so miserable, because he felt this trouble was undeserved. “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” (7). It’s ‘the law of the harvest,’ Eliphaz asserted—everyone knows, “You reap what you sow” (c.f.—Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 8:7 & 10:13, Galatians 6:7-8). Bad things only happen to bad people (Job 4:8-9).
Then the man described an eerie encounter he had one night, in which “a word was secretly brought to me,” by a spirit he couldn’t see, but felt (vv. 12-16). In typical demonic style of mingling truth with falsehood and condemning the hearer, leaving him without hope, this spirit told Eliphaz:
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?
If He puts no trust in His servants,
If He charges His angels with error,
How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
Whose foundation is in the dust,
Who are crushed before a moth?
They are broken in pieces from morning till evening;
They perish forever, with no one regarding.
Does not their own excellence go away?
They die, even without wisdom” (Job 4:17-21).
Apart from God, no man can be righteous—and certainly our righteousness can never exceed His. Other than the angels that fell, God most certainly does trust His angelic servants—otherwise He’d always appear to men Himself, rather than send His dispatches through other heavenly beings. God doesn’t indiscriminately ‘crush’ men for the fun of it; rather the entire Bible is filled with examples of how He seeks to reconcile us to Himself! Hush up, Eliphaz, you don’t know what you’re talking about!
Job Chapter 5
Adding injury to insult, Eliphaz told Job no one was going to answer him from heaven (Job 5:1). He described hardships almost identical to Job’s and said they were the consequences of foolishness (vv. 2-6). In the hopeless tone of a nihilist, he said, “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (7). How can that be a comfort to a man who is suffering?
Having just told Job the Lord wouldn’t answer him, Eliphaz then said something like, ‘If I were you…’ “I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause” (8). What a contradiction! He accurately described the “great” and “unsearchable” things God does and how He helps the helpless and puts down the mighty (9-16). Echoing Proverbs 3:11-12, Hosea 6:1 and Hebrews 12:5-6, he said,
“happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18).
Then he described all the blessings for those in whom God delights—protection, provision, peace, posterity and long life (vv. 19-26). But the insinuation was, again, that Job wasn’t enjoying them because he didn’t deserve them somehow (27).
Job Chapter 6
Job came back by saying if they knew how heavy his grief weighed upon him, his friends would understand why he spoke rashly (Job 6:1-3). He says, “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me” (v. 4). Just as animals don’t make a fuss when they are satisfied, so he would keep quiet, if God would just do as he desired (5 & 8). Food was unappealing to him; he wished God would kill him, so he’d have some relief (6-7 & 9-10). Job had no strength left (11-13).
True friends would show some kindness—even if it seemed like he had abandoned his faith (14). But Job’s friends and family had been as disappointing as a dry stream bed to a weary traveler in offering comfort (15-20). They saw his calamity and were afraid to get involved (21). He never asked for their help before; now that he needed it, they were useless (22-23).
If they could point out his faults, he’d be glad to listen, but he was sure they would find none—his companions were accusing an innocent man (24 & 29-30). With high and mighty words, they were rebuking a desperate soul and further undermining their friend (25-26). If they would look him in the eye, they’d see he was not lying (28).
Job Chapter 7
Like an overworked hired hand, Job said, “I have been allotted months of futility, and wearisome nights have been appointed to me” (Job 7:1-3). During restless nights, all he could think about was “When shall I arise, and the night be ended?” (v. 4). His days passed far too quickly and without hope of any improvement (6-7).
With horrifying detail Job described his skin condition: “My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh.” (5). He expected to die at any time, so why should he watch what he said (8-11)?
Job turned his attention to the Lord, then, and complained that God wouldn’t even allow him to rest, due to terrifying nightmares (12-14). So hateful was his current existence that death by strangling would be an improvement (15-16)!
In desperation he asked,
That You should set Your heart on him,
That You should visit him every morning,
And test him every moment?
Will You not look away from me…” (17-19).
He couldn’t understand why God had set him up as a target, if he had not sinned (20). Even if he had unintentionally done wrong, why wouldn’t God forgive him (21)?
Job Chapter 8
Job’s friend Bildad was next to react to the poor fellow’s words. He started out by designating the man a windbag and indicating God’s justice caught up with Job’s sinful children (Job 8:1-4).
Bildad said, “If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place” (vv. 5-6). As Eliphaz indicated, everything would be fine for Job, if he were indeed right with God or would make himself so. In fact, Bildad said things would be even better than before [which actually does turn out to be the case] (7).
He urged Job to check with the old-timers, “For we were born yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow” compared to their longer ages (8-9). We can always learn from those more experienced than we are (10).
Bildad compared errant humanity with a papyrus reed—as soon as they abandon God, they wither like a rush outside its marshy environment (11-13). Misplaced confidence in ourselves is as fragile as a spider web (14-15). Like a vine spread out in a garden, once we are uprooted, there’s no trace of us left to tell anyone we ever existed (16-19).
The blameless, on the other hand, experience joy and peace (20-21). Their enemies are shamed, “And the dwelling place of the wicked will come to nothing” (22). Hmm, care to guess in which category was he classifying Job?
Job Chapter 9
Job protested that there was no way a man could be righteous before God (Job 9:1-2). There could be no contest between men and their Maker, because He is far more wise and powerful (vv. 3-4).
In verses 5-10, we see examples of the greatness of God:
He commands the sun and stars (7).
He made the heavens and walks on ocean waves (8).
He formed the constellations (9).
He does things we aren’t even aware of (10).
If mankind can neither perceive nor influence God, Job said, “How then can I answer Him, and choose my words to reason with Him?” (11-14). Although he wished he could plead for God’s mercy, Job wasn’t sure He would listen, since his heavenly Judge seemed so bent on punishing him “without cause” (15-18). Therefore God seemed unjust to him, so Job despised his life and said, “He destroys the blameless and the wicked” (19-22). Like so many others who are hurting and confused, Job thought life was unfair; the wicked triumph, while the innocent are condemned. If God was really good and really in control, He’d do something about it (23-24).
He compared the rapidity of the passing days to a runner, swift ships or an eagle swooping down on its prey (25-26). He could try to forget his troubles, paste on a happy face and pretend all was well (27). But he was afraid of worse things to come—that God had more trouble in mind and that any effort to clean up his act would be in vain, if the Lord was determined to condemn him (28-31).
God was not like a man that Job could summon to court and state his case (32). How he wished there was a Mediator who could intercede between himself and God (33)! Like a policeman breaking up a fight, this Person could disarm Job’s adversary and give him a chance to speak up for himself without fear of reprisal (34-35).
It sounds like Job needs Jesus—the Mediator and Advocate we find in the New Testament (See 1 Timothy 2:5 & 1 John 2:1).
Job Chapter 10
Since his life seemed pretty much over and he had nothing to lose, Job decided to voice his true feelings to God (Job 10:1). He wanted to know what he had done wrong or what fault the Lord found in him that He would condemn, contend with, oppress and despise Job (vv. 2-3). In a crisis of faith, Job wondered whether the Lord might somehow be limited in His perception like mere mortals (4-5). He could think of no other reason God would imagine iniquity that wasn’t there (6-7).
Job said to God, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet You would destroy me” (Job 10:8). He uses the imagery of a hand-molded article of clay that was reduced to powder (9). He described embryonic development with these vivid words:
And curdle me like cheese,
Clothe me with skin and flesh,
And knit me together with bones and sinews?” (10-11).
He couldn’t understand why the One who gave him life and favor would suddenly turn against him (12-13).
Job felt like he was in a no-win situation. “If I sin, then You mark me, and will not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am wicked, woe to me; even if I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head” (14-15). At the slightest hint of pride, Job was sure the Lord would hunt him like a lion and put him in his place (16). God had stacked his case against him, so Job felt embattled on every side [including with his so-called friends] (17).
Again, he wondered what good it had been for him even to be born, saying, “Oh, that I had perished and no eye had seen me!” (18). It would have been better, he thought, to be carried from the womb to the tomb—a stillborn child never experiencing the kind of pain he was in at present (19). He begged God, “Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort,” before he departed for the realm of everlasting “darkness and the shadow of death” (20-22).
Job Chapter 11
The third of Job’s friends launched his attack, first by saying his companion was full of “empty words” and mocking (Job 11:1-3). Putting words into Job’s mouth, Zophar claimed he said, “My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in your eyes” (v. 4). Yet nowhere had Job uttered such a thing!
This guy wished God would straighten Job out and show him that he had gotten less than his sins deserved (5-6). What kind of friend would say that?
Zophar said God is higher than the heavens, deeper than the abode of the dead and broader than the earth or sea—no man can figure out His limits (7-9). He perceives the true intentions of men’s hearts and deals with it in a way no man can hinder (10-11). With a massive dose of fatalism, Zophar added that “an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man” (12). Had he just insinuated that Job was an idiot?
From there he picked up the harangue that Job just needed to repent, and then God would make everything better (13-19). With a clean conscience, he could forget his misery and “remember it as waters that have passed away.” Otherwise, he’d wind up like the wicked—with nothing but trouble and loss of life to look forward to (20).
Job Chapter 12
Weary of the condescending words of his companions, Job said,
And wisdom will die with you!
But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Indeed, who does not know such things as these?” (Job 12:1-3)
These guys were mocking a man who had actually heard the voice of God before and had lived a blameless life (v. 4). Sometimes good things happen to evildoers, he reminded them (6). Even the birds, beasts and fishes can tell us God is behind everything that happens and gives life to all living (7-10).
He stated what may have been some common proverbs of the time: “Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food? Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:11-12, NIV).
Then in verses 13-25, he gave more examples of God’s wisdom, strength and sovereignty:
- What He tears down cannot be rebuilt.
- No one can free a man He imprisons.
- He causes droughts and floods.
- He has authority over both the dupe and his deceiver.
- He overthrows the wise, judges, kings, warriors, and other respected and powerful individuals.
- He illuminates the darkness.
- He builds up and destroys nations.
- He confuses the most competent leaders, so they grope and stagger without direction.
Job Chapter 13
Job again said he knew the stuff these three were telling him and was not the least bit inferior to them (Job 13:1-2). All he wanted was an audience with God, but these “forgers of lies” and “worthless physicians” kept interfering (vv. 3-4). In a statement sounding very much like Proverbs 17:28, he said they’d seem most wise if they would just be quiet (Job 13:5)!
In verse 6, Job told them to shut up and listen. Then he had them consider their own standing before God, since they were so quick to judge him. In verses 7-9 he says:
And talk deceitfully for Him?
Will you show partiality for Him?
Will you contend for God?
Will it be well when He searches you out?
Or can you mock Him as one mocks a man?”
They ought to be concerned about themselves in face of God’s coming rebuke (10-11). “Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes,” he said, and compared their arguments to defensive walls of clay (12).
He didn’t need his friends to contradict or correct him (13). Job just wanted to ‘take his life into his own hands,’ ‘go for broke,’ ‘state his piece’ and see what God would do with him—to use a few of our common figures of speech (c.f.—14). Knowing the character of God, Job stated, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” but he desired to defend himself first (15). He was pretty sure once he presented his case, the Lord would vindicate him (16-19).
He asked God to ease up on him, so he didn’t have to be in fear of Him (21). He also wanted the Lord to make him aware of why he was angry with him (23-24). He complained,
…For You write bitter things against me,
And make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
You put my feet in the stocks,
And watch closely all my paths…” (25-27).
Job Chapter 14
Job continued his complaint,
Is of few days and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue.” (Job 14:1-2).
He wished God would pay him less scrutiny and let him rest a bit (vv. 3-6).
Without the full revelation of Scripture that we have now, Job’s beliefs were somewhat faulty concerning man’s eternal destiny. He believed, unlike a tree that may sprout again once it is chopped down and seems dead, man cannot be revived once he dies (7-10). He compared mankind to evaporated water—once we’re gone, we’re gone and there’s no waking the dead (11-12). He wished God would hide him in the grave until His anger was spent (13). He asked, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (14). He looked forward to having the Lord ‘call him home,’ as we say (15-16).
He considered God’s evaluation of his sins too intense (17). Like the erosion of rock by time and the elements, he felt the Lord was wearing away his hope (18-19). There was no way of resisting His power (20). On the one hand Job thought a dead man was oblivious to his sons’ achievements or dishonor; while, on the other hand, he talked of both a physical and emotional response to it (21-22). No wonder he was in such a sad and hopeless state!
Job Chapter 15
Round two of their tiresome debate began with Eliphaz saying Job spoke with “empty knowledge,” filled “with the east wind…unprofitable talk…with which he can do no good” (Job 15:1-3). He asserted that the reason Job approached God without fear was that he was too sinful, sneaky and self-deceived to do otherwise; yet his own speech condemned him (vv. 4-6).
Although Job never suggested he was better than the others, Eliphaz accused him of thinking he was too superior to listen to “the consolations of God…spoken gently” to him (7-11). I haven’t seen any ‘gentleness’ spoken by Job’s friends; just a lot of ‘holier than thou’ insults! He accused Job of turning against God by spouting insolent words (12-13).
He rightly asserted that there is no way a human being can be 100% pure in God’s eyes (14). Yet he went back to the idea that God trusted no one, and that even the heavens weren’t clean in His sight [How, then, could a holy God stand to inhabit them?] (15). Eliphaz declared, “How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water!” (16). I’m sure Job did not feel at all flattered by that assessment!
The Temanite then referred back to personal experience and the teachings of wise men of his day (17-19). Painting a picture very closely resembling Job’s circumstances, Eliphaz said, “The wicked man writhes with pain all his days,” his prosperity is wiped out, he lives in constant fear and want, certain darkness will overtake him (20-24). He defies God and stubbornly resists Him (25-26). Though he may grow fat, prosperous and powerful, he’ll eventually be consumed (27-30).
For futility will be his reward.
It will be accomplished before his time” (31-32).
Comparing the wicked to a plant, Eliphaz said their branches eventually withered and their fruit was cast off before it was ripe [i.e.—they’re bereaved of their offspring], (32-33). “For the company of hypocrites will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of bribery. They conceive trouble and bring forth futility; their womb prepares deceit.” (34-35).
Job Chapter 16
If I had someone spouting this kind of nonsense without ceasing, I think I would by now be saying, “Guys, I appreciate you coming and sitting with me, but I really need to get some rest now.” If they still wouldn’t leave me alone, then maybe I’d go lock myself in the bathroom or bedroom, until they got the hint!
Not Job. He came right out and said, “Miserable comforters are you all! …what provokes you that you answer?” (Job 16:1-3). If the tables were turned, he could just as easily accuse them, yet he would choose to offer genuine comfort for their grief (vv. 4-5). He admitted that venting his frustration had brought him no relief, but he knew that keeping it in would not help either (6).
Job turned his attention back to God, saying, “He has worn me out” and “made desolate all my company” (7). Picking up on Eliphaz’s imagery, Job said the Lord had shriveled him up and his leanness testified against him (8).
God had become like an enemy to Job: “He tears me in His wrath, and hates me” (9). Because of it, everyone else felt justified abusing the poor man, as well (10-11). “I was at ease, but He has shattered me; He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; He has set me up for His target” (12). Job felt as embattled as a man surrounded by a mighty army; a wounded man relentlessly attacked by a ruthless warrior (13-14).
None of this, he felt, was justified:
And laid my head in the dust.
My face is flushed from weeping,
And on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
Although no violence is in my hands,
And my prayer is pure” (15-17).
He hoped his blood would cry out for justice and reach heaven; for there, he believed, was One who knew he was innocent (18-19). “My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God”—if only he had someone on his side to plead in his behalf before he was forced to “go the way of no return” (20-22).
Job Chapter 17
Job went on to say, “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me” (Job 17:1). He was surrounded by mockers [including his friends], distracted by their constant provocation (v. 2). God had “hidden their heart from understanding”—Job knew no matter what he said, it wouldn’t do any good, and he wasn’t about to resort to flattery to appease them (4-5).
God had made him a byword among his neighbors; people spat in his face (6). He could hardly see for all his weeping, and his limbs were a mere shadow of their former strength (7). His situation was a shock to others (8). He had lost everything—including his hopes, dreams and ambitions—Job’s world was turned upside down (11-12). He was just about to the point of believing his only true companions were death and decay; his only relief and rest was to be found in the grave (13-16).
Job Chapter 18
In rapid-fire succession, Job’s other two companions and he exchanged words. Bildad began by saying, “When will you end these speeches? Be sensible, and then we can talk.” (Job 18:1-2, NIV). He accused Job of regarding them as dumb animals and wondered whether the man expected the earth to be shaken in his behalf (vv.3-4).
He went on to draw more parallels between Job’s current circumstances and the fate of the wicked:
- They walk in darkness (5-6).
- Snares and traps await them along the course they choose (7-10).
- They live in constant terror (11).
- Their strength and health deteriorate (12-13).
- Their homes and property are occupied or destroyed by others (14-15).
- Like desert plants, they wither and die, leaving not a trace of their existence to be remembered (16-18).
- Even their children are wiped out, to the astonishment of everyone around them (19-20).
Bildad twisted the knife in Job’s back by adding, “Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God,” (21) as if Job were one of the ungodly!
Job Chapter 19
Again, Job got right to the point:
And break me in pieces with words?
These ten times you have reproached me;
You are not ashamed that you have wronged me” (Job 19:2-3).
He really didn’t care to argue with these men; his complaint was with God (vv. 4-6). The Lord had confined and ignored Job (7-8). He’d stripped the man of everything, broken him down and left him without hope (9-10). “He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies”—Job felt as if he were besieged on every side (11-12).
Not only was God against him, but friends and family had abandoned Job (13-14). His household servants didn’t respect him anymore (15-16). Even his own wife was repulsed by him (17)! What was more, little kids picked on him (18).
His most trusted friends had turned against him (19). It was bad enough he was barely surviving (20). Couldn’t they spare a bit of pity for him (21)? “Why do you persecute me as God does?” (22).
Job wished his words could be written down and inscribed in rock (23-24). Maybe he thought this was the only way that people would be able to hear his side of the story, since his companions were ignoring and twisting everything he said!
Again, he turned his thoughts to God:
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God” (25-26).
He longed for the day he could see the Lord he trusted in face-to-face (27). He warned his companions that, rather than looking for ways to persecute him, they should be concerned about how they would face God when their day of reckoning came (28-29).
Job Chapter 20
Zophar immediately jumped in, impatient to voice his retort to what he felt was an accusation from Job (Job 20:1-3). He said that from the beginning of time, the triumph of the wicked and the joy of the hypocrite have been short-lived (vv. 4-5). Though his pride reaches the heavens, he’ll be brought to nothing and utterly forgotten (6-9). His children will be lower than beggars, forced to repay what their father took from others (10).
His youthful vigor is buried with him in the dust (11). The evil that tasted so sweet in his mouth will eat away at his belly like venomous poison (12-14 & 16). He’ll vomit up the riches he had hoarded, unable to enjoy the fruits of his labor (15 & 17-18). He’ll lose everything he gained through dishonesty and oppression (19-20). He’ll have no peace, and eventually not enough food to survive, having alienated himself from anyone who might’ve been able to help him (20-23).
Here’s a warning for America, though inappropriately applied to Job: “In his self-sufficiency he will be in distress” (22). The wicked man will come under attack and be run through with arrows (24-25). Fire will consume what remains of his, and the survivors of his household will be in trouble (26). “The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him” (27). He’ll have nothing left (28). “This” Bildad said, “is the portion from God for a wicked man, the heritage appointed to him…”
Job Chapter 21
Again, Job told these three to listen, and then mock on to their hearts’ content (Job 21:1-3). He reiterated that his complaints were not directed against men, but God (v. 4). “Look at me and be astonished;” he said, “put your hand over your mouth” (5). How could these guys who knew him accuse him of wrong-doing? How could they say a man like him deserved what was happening to him now?
With a fear and trembling (6), Job reminded his friends that the world was full of wicked men who didn’t suffer the consequences for their actions in this life—contrary to what people would normally expect:
- Some wicked men lived a full life and increased in power (7).
- They live to see their children established as successful adults (8).
- They neither fear God nor face punishment from Him (9).
- Their livestock breed and bear successfully (10).
- They have many happy children (11).
- They celebrate life with music and song (12).
- They enjoy their riches and die peacefully (13).
All of this is true, in spite of the fact, “they say to God, ‘Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?’” (14-15)!
How do these three explain such a contradiction to the platitudes they’ve been spouting? Job maintains, “The counsel of the wicked is far from me” (16). Isn’t it conceivable that if the wicked are not always punished, the righteous may experience hardship, as well?
Job asked, “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?” (17). If we suppose that God takes out a man’s sins on his children, what good is that? Shouldn’t a person suffer the consequences of his own wrong-doing instead—especially if he cares about no one but himself? (19-21).
Even though it may seem inequitable to us, God, who judges from heaven, is above reproach (22). One man passes on, having enjoyed all the comforts of life; while “Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure” (23-25). Yet the end of both is the same: They’re buried and the worms eat them (26).
Considering their previous comments and anticipating their further rebukes, Job said, “I know your thoughts, and the schemes with which you would wrong me” (27). They asserted that the ruler and the wicked were removed without a trace (28). Yet was the same thing true everywhere (29)? Evil men might very well be “reserved for the day of doom,” yet they might not experience correction in this life (30-31). Their passing was no different from countless men who had gone before them and would follow them in death (32-33). Job asked, “How then can you comfort me with empty words, since falsehood remains in your answers?” (34).
Job Chapter 22
In round three, Eliphaz launched his next attack, asking whether God really benefits from or takes pleasure in a wise or righteous person (Job 22:1-3). He indicates that Job is not being corrected because of his fear of God, but great wickedness and “iniquity without end” (vv. 4-5).
Taking on the role of Satan, the accuser (very likely the one supplying the words of Eliphaz’s speech), Job’s so-called friend listed very specific sins that he imagined Job must be guilty of to bring about God’s opposition:
- Taking pledges for loans and leaving debtors without their clothing (6)
- Refusing food and drink from those in need (7)
- Not assisting widows or orphans (9)
- Pretending God is too far away to see his actions or do anything about them (12-14).
These, Eliphaz insisted, were the reason “snares are all around you, and sudden fear troubles you,” and darkness like “an abundance of waters” made it hard to find his way (10-11).
Rather than “keep to the old way which wicked men have trod,” and continue to suffer the consequences of rebellion, to the delight of the righteous; Eliphaz urged Job to turn back to God, receive instruction, let God remove his sin and realign his values (21-24). Then…
And your precious silver;
For then you will have your delight in the Almighty,
And lift up your face to God.
You will make your prayer to Him,
He will hear you,
And you will pay your vows” (25-27).
Whatever plans Job made would be established, and he would be able to effectively intercede for others (28-30).
Job Chapter 23
Job did not even bother to address Eliphaz, but continued to set his heart on God. He wished he knew where to find the Lord, so he could present his case to him (Job 23:1-4). He was certain God would inform him of His reasons for all of his trouble, would listen to Job and would deliver him (vv. 5-7). The problem was, no matter where Job searched, he could not find God, since He’s invisible (8-9).
Still, he was convinced the Lord could see him and was aware of his faithfulness to God’s word and His direction (10-12). In verse 10, he says, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Nevertheless, Job acknowledged, “He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does” (13). God, in His sovereignty, could do whatever He wanted with Job, and that struck terror in Job’s heart (14-16). Like any one of us, his greatest concern was the unknown—the ‘darkness’ that seemed to lay ahead of him (15).
Job Chapter 24
In indirect reply to Eliphaz’s accusation that Job was committing evil, thinking God was too far removed to see him, Job marveled that the wicked did their dirty needs in spite of the fact that nothing is hidden from God (Job 24:1). He then enumerated the conduct of the powerful:
- They change the boundary markers of people’s property (v. 2).
- They take other people’s livestock from them—including those belonging to widows and orphans (3-4).
- They are bullies, who force others out of their way and drive the poor into hiding (5).
- They take fatherless children from their mothers [assumedly to make them slaves] (9).
- They take a poor person’s clothing in pledge for a debt (9-10).
- They employ the poor to harvest their crops, press their olives and tread their grapes, but do not give them a share of what they gather (10-11).
- They cause injury and death, but God doesn’t seem to “charge them with wrong” (12).
In contrast, the helpless have to forage for their food, gleaning in the fields and vineyards of other (5-6). They are not properly clothed, exposed to the elements, seeking whatever shelter they can find outdoors (7-8).
In verse 13, Job said worse men openly “rebel against the light,” and then follows with more examples:
- The murderer kills the poor and needy in broad daylight and skulks about at night (14).
- Adulterers wait for the cover of darkness to “break into houses” and commit their disgraceful acts, knowing that to be recognized in daylight would be a death sentence for them (15-17).
Such evil men should suffer swift retribution (18). They ought to be childless and go to an early grave, forgotten by everyone—since they take advantage of childless and widowed women (19-21).
However, the Lord has other ways of doing things:
He rises up, but no man is sure of life.
He gives them security, and they rely on it;
Yet His eyes are on their ways.
They are exalted for a little while,
Then they are gone.
They are brought low;
They are taken out of the way…” (22-24).
Job concluded this speech by challenging the others to prove him wrong (25). No doubt, he knew these contentious men were sure to give it their best shot!
Job Chapter 25
In the shortest retort so far in this book, Bildad came back at Job, saying dominion and fear rightly belong to God, who “makes peace in His high places” [probably something along the lines of pax Romana in the Shuhite’s mind] (Job 25:1-2). Considering that His armies are innumerable and there is no place not illuminated by His light, how could any human being hope to be righteous in God’s sight (vv. 3-4)? Bildad claimed even the moon and stars were not pure to God, so what was man but a grubby little worm to Him (5-6)?
Job Chapter 26
With pointed sarcasm, Job congratulated his companions for their sage advice (Job 26:1-3). Insightfully, he asked, “Who has helped you utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?”—clearly discerning a spirit other than God’s inspired them (v. 4, NIV).
He went on to describe God’s omniscience, which extended even to the abode of the dead (5-6). He extolled the omnipotence of the Creator, who made the heavens and “hangs the earth on nothing” (7). He marveled at how clouds may be filled with water, but don’t break under its weight and how the Lord uses them to curtain His throne (8-9). Without the benefit of a view from space, Job envisioned the horizon as “a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness” (v. 10, NASB). God exerts power and inspires fear in the heavens and on the earth (11-12). “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent” (13). And Job admitted this was just a sampling of what the Lord could do (14)!
Job Chapter 27
Continuing his discourse, Job vowed by the living God—who’d taken away his justice and made him bitter—that he’d never lie and agree with these men that he was anything but righteous, since his conscience was clear (Job 27:1-6). He wished his opponents the same fate as the wicked (v. 7). “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he may gain much, if God takes away his life?” (8). He wondered if a man’s pretended piety was any real help: “Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him?” (9). He was sure his companions were aware of God’s greatness, yet asked, “Why then do you behave with complete nonsense?” (10-11).
He said an oppressor’s family was doomed (13-15). He heaped up possessions for the innocent to divide (16-17). His home was but a temporary shelter (18). “The rich man will lie down, but not be gathered up…” (19). Terrors and tempests would sweep him away, and everyone would cheer at his removal (20-23).
Job Chapter 28
Turning his attention from the destiny of the wicked to wisdom, Job described in great detail how his contemporaries mined metals and precious stones, but asked, “where can wisdom be found?” (Job 28:1-12). We obtain ore from the earth with shafts, strip-mines, dredging, panning and other methods and then refine it into useful forms. But how can we obtain understanding?
Man neither knows the value of wisdom, nor how to find it (v. 13). It cannot be found underwater (14). The most precious gems and metals cannot buy it (15-19). Its origin is concealed from every living thing (20-21). Death and Destruction are aware of its existence (22). God alone, who sees everything, knows where it is (23-24).
Wisdom was at work in Him, when the Creator established atmospheric pressure and measured out the waters (25). “When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, then He saw wisdom and declared it…” (26-27). Being the very source of wisdom, God could say to mankind, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (28).
Job Chapter 29
Next, Job reminisced about days gone by when he enjoyed God’s blessings (Job 29:1-2). Everything made sense then; his children lived close by, and he was happy and prosperous (vv. 3-6). He was sure he would enjoy a long and fulfilled life (18-20).
In those days, even the noblest citizens of the land respected Job and waited with bated breath to hear him speak (7-10). Everyone approved of what he said and did, because Job was well-known for helping those less fortunate (11-13). He clothed himself with righteousness and justice, helped the handicapped and rescued the helpless from those who tried to harm them (14-17). People sought him out for counsel and leadership (21-25).
Job Chapter 30
Now young men mocked him—including those whose fathers were the dregs of society (Job 30:1). These were beggars, “driven out from among men,” who lived in caves in the wilderness and foraged for food wherever they could find it (vv. 2-7). Job had become the topic of the taunting songs and a byword for these worthless men, “sons of fools,” who would not hesitate to spit in his face or try to trip him up because of his calamity (8-13).
Job felt as overwhelmed as a man tossed on the waves of the sea (14). He lamented, “Terrors are turned upon me; they pursue my honor as the wind, and my prosperity has passed like a cloud” (15). He described aching bones, “gnawing pains,” and other physical and emotional discomforts caused by God, who had reduced him to dust and ashes (16-19).
Although he cried out, God wouldn’t answer (20). “But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me” (21). So storm-tossed was his soul, so shattered his former success, he was certain death was his only destination (22-24).
It didn’t seem fair that Job, who had been so compassionate toward others, would now be so afflicted and abandoned (25-29). His skin was turning black and flaking from him; he was wracked with fever (30). All cause for celebration was gone (31).
Job Chapter 31
Knowing God observed everything about him, Job had long ago resolved not to look lustfully after any woman (Job 31:1-4). He wished curses on himself if he had somehow been unfaithful, knowing “that would be wickedness” and “iniquity deserving of judgment” (vv. 5-12).
He had been careful to treat his household servants well, knowing he was accountable to the God who created them and him (13-15). He tried to share his food, shelter and counsel with widows and orphans (16-18). Job provided clothing for the destitute (19-20). He invoked curses on himself if ever he should take advantage of the fatherless, knowing God was their Advocate (21-23).
Job wished evil against himself if ever he had trusted in his riches or worshiped the sun or moon (24-27). He recognized any such idolatry “would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above” (28).
He likewise denounced cursing any enemy or rejoicing over his misfortune (29-30). He had made a practice of opening his home and sharing his food with travelers (31-32). He hoped he’d never tried to hide his sin like Adam, for fear of what others might think of him (33-34).
He wished again he could hear God’s answer concerning what charges He had against Job that had brought about these reversals in his fortune (35-36). He would then give his defense with confidence (37).
In one final afterthought, Job adds to his unintended sins against humanity, that if he had somehow done wrong in how he used his land, “Then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley” (38-40). He scrutinized every aspect of his life and was certain he’d done nothing deserving of his current circumstances.
Job Chapter 32
Finally Job’s three critics realized they could not convince him he was anything but righteous, so they shut up at last (Job 32:1). However, at some point in time a fourth person had joined them, and he felt it was his turn to level an attack. This fellow, “Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram,” was ticked off not only at Job for saying he was right and God was wrong, but also at the other three guys for giving up their debate without convincing him of his sin (vv. 2-3). Very likely a relative of Abraham [See Background info], Elihu was the youngest man present, so he deferred to his elders out of respect. Yet when the other three clammed up after Job’s long discourse, he couldn’t stand it anymore, but came out with guns blazing at all four of them (4-5).
Elihu said he’d kept his opinions to himself at first, thinking the older men were wiser than he (6-7). However, now he realized that age does not necessarily make a person wise; rather the Spirit of the Almighty gives that distinction (8-9). Having listened to them all speak to no resolution, Elihu elected himself to set the record straight, using his own arguments (10-17). I love how he said, “I am full of words,” in verse eighteen and compared himself in the next verse to an inflated wineskin about to burst. The only way this opinionated man could find relief was to vent his anger on the others (20). They could be certain he’d waste no time with flattery, considering himself incapable of such a vice (21-22).
Thanks for the warning, Elihu. Go ahead and add your bile to the vociferous mess.
Job Chapter 33
With the arrogance of youth, Elihu said they all should pay attention, since he spoke from a pure heart and his lips would “utter pure knowledge” (Job 33:1-3). He set himself up as Job’s “spokesman before God” (vv. 4-6). What a poor substitute for the Advocate the old man had longed for earlier!
In verses eight through eleven, Elihu paraphrased some of Job’s assertions regarding his innocence and God’s harsh treatment. He said Job’s problem was that he accused God of some wrong-doing, when the Lord doesn’t answer to Job or any other man (12-13).
Elihu rightly asserted that the Lord employs various methods of getting men’s attention (14):
- God speaks to us through dreams and visions (15).
- He instructs us verbally to turn us from the path to certain destruction (16-18).
- The Lord also disciplines us through serious illness (19-21).
- Once in a while He sends a human messenger to point out God’s righteousness and intercede for us when we’re near death (22-23).
Then God exercises grace toward the afflicted, saying, “Deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom” (24). The person’s health is restored, and God reopens the channels of positive communication between them (25-26). The person delivered recognizes the error of his ways and confesses to others, so they, too, gain instruction (27-30).
Apparently Job started to interrupt, for Elihu told him to keep listening; he’d have a chance to speak in his defense. Meanwhile, Elihu intended to justify him and teach the old man wisdom (31-33)!
Job Chapter 34
Extending an invitation for wise and learned men to sample his words and choose what is good, Elihu again quoted some of Job’s protests (Job 34:1-6). He accused Job of drinking “scorn like water” and hanging with the wrong crowd (vv. 7-8). He misquoted Job as saying it does a man no good to delight in God (9).
Then Elihu took up God’s defense. He said it was impossible for the Lord to do wrong, “For He repays man according to his work…” and could never pervert justice (10-12). No one gave God His authority—He is accountable to no man (13). If He were to recall His life-giving Spirit, “All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (14-15).
Accusing God of wrong-doing is as bad as calling a king incompetent to his face (16-18). God is impartial, treating all men He has created the same (19-20).
The Lord’s “eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps” (21). There’s no hiding from Him (22). He doesn’t need to conduct an investigation into our behavior, being fully aware of all we’ve done (23-25). When a person turns his/her back on God and mistreats the helpless, God is sure to overthrow them in the night (26-28). When the Lord blesses or withdraws from a person or nation, there’s not a thing anyone can do to change it (29). He’s not about to let the hypocrite stay in power and ensnare an entire population (30). He doesn’t pardon on our terms, but does what He pleases (31-33).
Elihu wished “that Job were tried to the utmost, because his answers are like those of a wicked man” devoid of wisdom or knowledge (34-36). He indicted the poor man for adding rebellion to his unconfessed sin and multiplying accusations against God (37).
Job Chapter 35
Elihu, like Job’s former accusers, put words into the sufferer’s mouth. He claimed Job had said he was more righteous than God and was no better off than if he had sinned (Job 35:1-3).
In the midst of Elihu’s speech, a storm began to gather. He called attention to the clouds and started to talk about how much higher God was than Job (vv. 4-5).
In verses six and seven, Elihu asserted that whether we do good or bad has little effect on God, as mighty as He is. However, our conduct does affect ourselves and fellow human beings (8). Men have a tendency to cry out for relief when they are in trouble, but have little appreciation for the peace, joy and wisdom available from God the rest of the time (9-11). When such is the case, Elihu said, God was not about to answer, “Because of the pride of evil men” (12).
Directing his remarks toward Job, he said, “Surely God will not listen to empty talk” (13). Although Job hadn’t seen it yet, Elihu was sure the Lord was going to set everything right; Job just needed to be patient (14). It was God’s restraint in punishing his folly that Elihu believed emboldened Job, so that “He multiplies words without knowledge” (15-16).
Job Chapter 36
Elihu continued to speak in God’s defense to Job, insinuating he was divinely inspired to do so (Job 36:1-3). The young braggart was so confident of himself, he said, “One who is perfect in knowledge is with you” (4)!
He extolled God’s might and understanding (5). He then spouted a series of tired platitudes asserting that the righteous are always blessed, while the wicked suffer (6-15). He said God “would have brought you out of dire distress” and given Job abundant blessing, but he was experiencing “the judgment due the wicked” (16-17). Furthermore, he was in danger of an even worse fate, should he continue to rely on himself, his riches or iniquity to rescue him (18-21).
Oblivious to how insensitive and sanctimonious he was being, Elihu went on with his focus on God’s greatness. “Behold, God is exalted by His power; who teaches like Him?” Elihu asked (22). No one can tell the Lord what to do or accuse Him of wrong-doing (23). “Remember to magnify His work, of which men have sung. Everyone has seen it…” (24-25). God is so great, we neither know Him, nor know that much about Him—especially His age or origins (26).
As the storm clouds increased around them, Elihu’s attention returned to them and their Maker. He described the water cycle in poetic beauty: God “draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist” (27). That is, water evaporates and rises to gather into clouds, which later “pour abundantly on man” (28). Elihu wondered who could understand how clouds, thunder or lightning worked; how God could use the rain to both judge and feed people (29-32).
Job Chapter 37
By this time the storm must’ve grown intense. As the lightning flashed and the thunder cracked, Elihu said, “At this also my heart trembles, and leaps from its place” (Job 37:1). He imagined God speaking through the thunder and illuminating the earth through the lightning all around them (vv. 2-5). He considered the authority of God to determine whether snow or showers or heavy rain should descend from the clouds and how both men and animals took shelter from the storm (6-8).
By now, the wind must’ve kicked up, and perhaps a funnel cloud was visible, since Elihu mentioned a whirlwind (9). The temperature must’ve dropped, and perhaps there was a bit of hail, because he talked about cold winds and ice (9-10). He described thick swirling clouds that do the Lord’s bidding—whether to bring correction or mercy on the earth (11-13).
By now, a sensible woman would’ve been rounding up her people, pets and possessions and heading for the nearest storm shelter. But not these five men. Elihu was probably shouting to be heard over the roar of the wind and thunder!
Elihu told Job to “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God” (14). Then he asked a series of questions to test the old man’s wisdom:
- When does God command the elements (15)?
- How does He balance the clouds (16)?
- Why does the south wind make us hot (17)?
- Has Job ever suspended the skies like a cast metal mirror (18)?
With growing apprehension, Elihu wrapped up his reproof, demanding Job tell them all how to answer God (19). He asked the rhetorical question, “Should He be told that I wish to speak?” and then indicated any man who tried to confront God would be swallowed up (20). If we can’t look at the sun in a clear sky, how can we face God in His glorious splendor (21-22)? With one last dig at Job, he highlighted the Lord’s power and justice, adding, “He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart” (24).
Job Chapter 38
Job finally got the audience he wanted with the Lord; however, it was not anything like what he had hoped! After making His grand entrance in the storm, YHWH began His address as follows:
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (Job 38:1-3).
God asked Job where he was when the Lord created the earth, determining its dimensions and constructing it as a Master Builder (vv. 4-6). Where was he, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at its completion (7)? He described the sea as an infant bursting from a womb and how He made clouds and darkness “its swaddling band” (8-9). He asked Job who was in charge when He set limits on the proud waves of the ocean (10-11).
The Lord asked whether Job had ever commanded the morning, explored the ocean depths or knew where the gates of death were located (12-17). Did he know the size of the earth, the source of light or darkness (18-20)? In words laced with sarcasm, God interjected, “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (Job 38:21, NIV).
He asked about the storehouses of snow and hail, “Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war” (vv. 22-23). God asked how light was diffused or how the east wind was distributed over the earth (24). Who sets the course of water and causes the grass to grow (25-27). Where does rain, dew, ice or frost come from (28-30)?
Can Job control the constellations or set the laws of the universe in motion (31-33)? Does he command the weather or give men intelligence (34-38)? Can he feed the wild beasts (39-41)?
Poor Job wanted answers, not impossible questions!
Job Chapter 39
Turning his attention from inanimate elements to living things, God asked Job about the life cycle of mountain goats and deer (Job 39:1-5). He asked, “Who set the wild donkey free?” and described some of the habits of this wilderness-loving animal (vv. 6-8). He talked about the strength of the wild ox, but asked whether Job would try to harness this powerful beast to plow his fields or thresh his grain (9-12). He mentioned the apparent folly of the ostrich, which could outrun a man on horseback, yet lays her eggs on the ground where they might be crushed underfoot (14-18). He challenged Job, “Have you given the horse strength?” and described the fearlessness of a war horse in battle (19-25). Describing the habits of hawks and eagles, the Lord asked whether Job gave them flight or told them where to build their nests (26-30).
Job Chapter 40
Concluding His opening remarks, God said to Job, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (Job 40:1-2). In other words, the Lord was asking, “Who are you to complain about me? Are you big enough to face the One who did all this?”
Job got the message. He responded, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You?” (vv. 3-4). That word for vile can also be translated, “despised,” “trifling,” or “of no account.” Job was admitting he was a lightweight in comparison to God and had spoken out of turn. He was ready to shut up now in face of Someone far superior to him (5).
God wasn’t done making His point, however. He said again from the whirlwind, “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (6-7). Like Elihu, the Lord asked what business Job had in condemning God to justify himself (8). Was he powerful and majestic enough to stand up to God and put transgressors in their place (9-13)? If so, then God would admit Job was capable of saving himself (14).
For His next point, the Lord presented a large land-dwelling dinosaur as Exhibit A to demonstrate God’s superior might. He said, “Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you…” (15). Like humans, this creature was spoken into existence by God on day six of creation (See Genesis 1:24-25). The Lord described the animal in detail:
- “He eats grass like an ox” (Job 40:15). That is, this beast was vegetarian.
- It had powerful hips and stomach muscles (v. 16).
- Its tail was compared to a cedar tree (17).
- His bones are like tubes of bronze; his ribs like bars of iron (18).
- He is the foremost/chief/first of God’s works; His maker alone has the power of life and death over him (19).
- This beast fed in the mountains, but hung out among the lotus, willows and rushes growing in and near bodies of water. With its large size, it was undisturbed by floods in the Jordan (20-23).
- It was also too big to be trapped or restrained with a ring in its nose (24).
Some people who have accepted the idea of evolution and the timetable of “millions of years” have tried to say this beast was an elephant or other animal they consider more contemporary with humans. Anyone who has seen an elephant knows it has a tail more like a rope than a cedar! While it is now our mightiest land animal, it is certainly not so great as to defy being trapped or subdued. More likely this was an Apatosaurus or a brachiosaur, instead.
Job Chapter 41
Exhibit B is a sea-dwelling dinosaur, known to the ancients as Leviathan. Some scholars have suggested this was an alligator or crocodile, but if you read the description of this beast, it’s clear it’s something much bigger and meaner—probably a plesiosaurus. According to God:
- This fellow was fierce, defying anyone’s ability to catch him with a hook or line (Job 41:1-2).
- It was not a creature to be tamed or eaten (vv. 3-6).
- It was too big even to harpoon or spear like a whale (7).
- If anyone tried to catch him, they’d never repeat the mistake again (8)!
- Leviathan possessed powerful limbs and “graceful proportions” (12).
- It had “terrible teeth” and armored scales (13-17).
- This sea monster was also a dragon, breathing fire and smoke (18-20).
- It had a strong neck and thick skin (21-23).
- This hard-hearted creature struck fear in the souls of those who opposed him (24-25).
- No weapon of any kind could penetrate its armor (26-29).
- It was armored even on its belly, scratching the mud along the shoreline (30).
- Leviathan was fast, making “the deep boil like a pot” and leaving “a shining wake behind him,” as he swam through the water (31-32).
- It was fearless and proud (33-34).
Considering that no one could hope to overpower this beast, why would they think they could stand up to the God who made him and owns everything under heaven—including this monster (9-11)?
Job Chapter 42
With this, Job conceded to YHWH, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:1-2). He admited, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (v. 3). Before, he knew God only through hearsay; now that he had seen the Lord with his own eyes, Job realized how out of line he was for demanding answers from Him (4-5). “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (6).
Having come to an understanding with Job, the Lord turned His attention to the man’s companions. To Eliphaz (probably the oldest), He said, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (7). He then ordered the three men to bring sacrifices for Job to offer with prayers in their behalf (8). The men did so, narrowly avoiding God’s punishment for their foolishness (9). Oddly enough, Elihu is not mentioned by God—either negatively or positively—which has led some Bible scholars to believe his speeches were added by another author.
Once Job had prayed for his friends, the blessings started coming in again (10). Job’s family and friends came to share a meal with him, offering comfort and contributing a piece of silver and a ring of gold apiece (11). God doubled everything that had been taken away—providing twice as many sheep, cattle, camels and donkeys (12). He also had ten more children—seven boys and three of the most beautiful daughters in that part of the world (13-15). “After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations…” (16). Thoroughly vindicated, the saint passed away at a ripe old age.
I think there are several lessons to be learned from this ancient book:
- God is in complete control of what happens to us. The enemy can never touch His saints, unless the Lord allows it.
- While we may never understand why bad things happen to us, we have to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. He will eventually restore His blessings to those who stay true to Him.
- Don’t assume that, just because a person is suffering, it is because he/she has done something to deserve punishment. Sometimes the best you can do for someone is pain is to be still and listen without judgment!
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.