Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 38–42:6. The Lord answers Job out of the Storm
We are now to witness the last act of the drama. And to understand it we have to go back to the starting-point and recall the idea of the Poem. This idea is expressed in the question, Doth Job serve God for nought? Or, as otherwise put, the idea is, The trial of the Righteous. This trial has been observed proceeding throughout the whole Book. Now it approaches its conclusion. The Lord, who caused it or permitted it, and has watched it from afar, must now interpose to bring it to an end, and bestow on Job the fruits of it. The trial has been successfully borne: for though Job has sinned under it, his sin has not been of the kind predicted by the Adversary; he has continued to cleave to God, and even sounded deeps of faith profounder than ever he had reached before (ch. 19), and tasted the sweets of righteousness with a keener delight than during his former godly life (ch. Job 17:9).
At the point at which we are now arrived the sole object of interest is Job’s mind in its relations to God. The speculative question discussed between him and his friends concerning the meaning of his sufferings, or the meaning of evil in general in the providence of God, has no importance, except so far as the conclusions which Job has arrived at have left his mind in a condition of perplexity in regard to the ways of God. The Author’s didactic purpose in raising the discussion between Job and his friends has been served (ch. 21, 23–24.). Job himself now remains the problem.
Though the trial has been successfully borne upon the whole, Job has not come out of it scatheless. His demeanour towards God, especially in presuming to contend with Him, has been at many points profoundly blameworthy. And the thought, which he refuses to abandon (ch. Job 27:2-6, Job 31:35 seq.), that God is unjust in His rule of the world, even though he maintains it more as a theory and necessary construction of facts as he observes them, without allowing it much to influence his life, or destroy his larger faith in God, is a thought not only derogatory to God, but one that must cripple every religious movement of Job’s heart. So long as such a feeling remains his trial cannot be said to be ended. But nothing that Job himself can do, nor anything that his friends can urge, is able to remove it. It was God, by His mysterious providence, who raised this dark doubt in His servant’s mind, and He must interpose to drive it away.
It might be supposed at first that the simplest way of restoring Job to peace would have been to reveal to him that his afflictions were not due to his sin, but were the trial of his righteousness, and in this way solve the problem that perplexed him. But the elements of blameworthiness in Job’s conduct forbade this simple treatment. The disease had spread in his mind, and developed moral symptoms, which required a broader remedy. Besides, it is God who now speaks to Job; and in His teaching of men He never moves in the region of the mere understanding, but always in that of the religious life. He may remove perplexities regarding His providence and ways from men’s minds, but He does not do so by the immediate communication of intellectual light, but by flushing all the channels of thought and life with a deeper sense of Himself. Under the flow of this fuller sense of God perplexities disappear, just as rocks that raise an angry surf when the tide is low are covered and unknown when it is full. This is the meaning of God’s manifestation to Job out of the storm. He brings Himself and His full glory near to Job, and fills his mind with such a sense of Him as he had never had before—“Now mine eye seeth thee” (ch. Job 42:5). At this sight of God his heart not only quivers with an unspeakable joy, but he abhors his past thoughts of Him, and his former words, and repents in dust and ashes.
The object of the Lord’s answer to Job out of the storm is twofold, to rebuke Job, and to heal him—to bring home to his heart the blameworthiness of his words and demeanour towards God, and to lift him up out of his perplexities into peace. The two things hardly differ; at least both are effected by the same means, namely by God’s causing all His glory to pass before Job.
The Lord’s answer to Job out of the storm consists of two parts, or contains two questions:—
First, ch. Job 38:1 to Job 40:5, Shall mortal man contend with God?
Second, ch. Job 40:6 to Job 42:6, Shall man charge God with wrong in His rule of the world?
The two questions, however, are hardly kept apart, for the first implies the second, inasmuch as a man’s contention with God will naturally be because of His unjust treatment of himself. And Job, in his final words of penitence (ch. Job 42:1-6), refers back to ch. Job 38:2.
In the beginning of His first address Jehovah invites Job to enter upon that contention with Him, which he had so often sought, “Gird up thy loins like a man; and I will demand of thee, and answer thou me” (ch. Job 38:3). The point aimed at by the Divine Speaker is the presumption of Job in desiring to contend with the Almighty. Then the Lord causes a panorama of creation, both inanimate and living, to pass before Job (ch. Job 38:4 to Job 39:30). Having done so He demands, “Will he that reproveth the Almighty contend with Him”? (ch. Job 40:2.) Does Job, now that the glory of God has been made to pass before his eyes, continue to desire to contend with Him? To which Job replies, “Behold I am too mean; how shall I answer thee? I lay mine hand upon my mouth” (ch. Job 40:4). The exhibition of the great panorama of creation was but a method of revealing God, not in one attribute but in all His manifoldness and resource of mind. It was designed to abase Job before God, and rebuke his presumption. And this was its effect: “Behold I am too mean”! But the revelation of God had another design besides abasing Job. It was given to Job that he might know God, and be at peace (ch. Job 22:21).
The process, however, is not yet complete. In a second address the Lord again commands Job to gird up his loins and answer Him. But now He is more specific: “Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be in the right”? (ch. Job 40:8.) And He ironically invites Job to clothe himself with the attributes of the Supreme Ruler, and conduct the rule of the world himself. The invitation brings home to Job a still deeper feeling of that which the Almighty is, and he exclaims, “I had heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee” (ch. Job 42:5). And in this light of God his own past thought of Him seems the darker: “I abhor it, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Thus the solution to Job’s problem given in God’s answer from the storm is a religious solution, not a speculative one. It is a solution to the heart, not to the intellect. It is such a solution as only God could give; a solution which does not solve the perplexity but buries it under the tide of a fuller life and joy in God. It is a solution as broad as Job’s life and not merely the measure of his understanding; the same solution as was given to the doubting Apostle, making him to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” and teaching him that not through his sense of touch or his eyesight, but through a broader sense, God makes himself felt by man.
Ch. Job 38:1 to Job 40:5. The Lord’s First Answer to Job out of the Storm. Shall mortal Man contend with God?
The passage has three general divisions:
First, ch. Job 38:1-38, a review of inanimate nature, the wonders of earth and sky, all revealing the manifoldness of the Divine mind, and suggesting by contrast the littleness of man.
Second, ch. Job 38:39 to Job 39:30, a review of the world of animal life, having the same object as the former division.
Third, ch. Job 40:1-5, the impression produced on Job by this vision of the glory of God in creation—he is abased and brought to silence.
This first address to Job touches simply the presumption of a man seeking to contend with God. Hence it is taken up with presenting God and man in opposition to one another. The vivid pictures of the inanimate creation, with its wonders, and the world of animal life, with its instincts and properties—all of them originated and bestowed by God—are but the means used for displaying God. And the sharp, ironical questions put to Job, where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth; whether he hunts her prey for the lioness; or combined such contradictory qualities in the ostrich; or created that wonder of beauty and fierceness, the war-horse—these questions but serve to bring out by contrast with God the feebleness and meanness of man.
Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,1. answered Job] That is, took up anew His words and directly appealed to Job.
Chap. Job 40:1-5. Effect of the Divine Speech on Job
As if the purpose of the preceding survey of Creation might be lost in the brilliancy of the individual parts of it, the Divine Speaker gathers up its general effect and brings it to bear on Job directly, demanding whether he will persevere in his contention with Jehovah;—will the reprover contend with the Almighty? Job 40:1-2.
Job is abased by the glory of God which He has made to pass before him, and brought to silence—I am too mean, what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand upon my mouth; Job 40:3-5.
Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.2. The verse means,
Will the reprover contend with the Almighty?
He that disputeth with God let him answer it.
The “reprover” or blamer is of course Job; and so is “he that disputeth,” or, “he that would dispute.” The word it refers to the foregoing display of God’s glory in creation, which Jehovah has set before Job. And the question means, Will Job now, having God in the manifoldness of His Being thus set before him, really enter on a contention with the Almighty?
Then Job answered the LORD, and said,3–5. Job’s answer: he will no more contend; he is silent before God.
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.4. behold, I am vile] The word vile here is not a moral term, it signifies, mean, small. The verse may be read,
Behold I am too mean; what shall I answer thee?
I lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Job is abased before Jehovah; he feels his meanness and is silent, comp. ch. Job 21:5, Job 29:9.
Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.5. I will proceed no further] Or, but I will not again. The words “once”, “twice”, that is, sundry times, refer to what Job had often said in his speeches concerning the Almighty.
The purpose of making these wonders of creation pass before Job’s eyes was to display God before him, and to heal the presumption of his heart. Every one of these wonders utters the name of God with a louder emphasis in Job’s ears. It is not any attribute of God that is dwelt upon, it is God in all the manifoldness of His being that passes before Job’s mind. It is entirely to misinterpret the design of these visions of creation presented to Job when we suppose that what is aimed at is to impress on Job the incomprehensibility of the Creator’s works, or the mystery that lies in them all; as if he was bidden consider that not in his own life alone, but everywhere, beneath his feet and around him, there lay unfathomable mysteries. The Lord does not reason with Job after the manner of the author of the Analogy of Religion. He does not say “you complain of darkness in your own history, look into the world and behold darkness everywhere”. This would have been sorry reasoning on the part of the Father of lights. On the contrary, He bids Job look away from his own darkness to the world which is luminous with God; and the exceeding light about God there, breaking on Job, swallows up his own darkness.
It is scarcely just to say that what Jehovah demands of Job here is simple submission, that he should bow absolutely and unconditionally under God. If this had been the meaning of Jehovah’s speeches out of the storm there was no reason for His speaking. Silence would have been more effective; or if He had spoken, it should have been with the voice of the thunder, terrifying Job into the dust. That the Lord speaks at all implies that He says something that may be understood by the creature of His hand. His speaking may be indirect, and in parables, but it will contain meaning. It is true that the object of the Divine speeches is, partly at least, to bring Job’s heart to submission and cause him to assume his right place before the Creator. And this was necessary, for Job, as he acknowledges, had sinned against the majesty of God. But the Lord does not command Job to take this place; He induces him. And he does so by the only means that will ever induce any human spirit to put itself right with God, the revelation of Himself. This revelation given to Job was patient, broad, and manifold. It was anything but a categorical command. We, indeed, may feel now that the revelation might have been different, that it might have contained other traits. The traits which we desiderate could hardly, perhaps, have been exhibited on an Old Testament stage. It was not the design of the revelation, if it ever was the design of revelation, to communicate new truths to Job, but to make him feel the truth which he knew, and enable him to live aright before God.
Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,6. the whirlwind] As before, the storm.
Chap. Job 40:6 to Job 42:6. The Lord’s Second Answer to Job out of the Storm
Shall Man charge God with unrighteousness in His Rule of the World?
All that the first speech of the Lord touched upon was the presumption of a mortal man desiring to contend with the Almighty. The display from Creation of that which God is had the desired effect on Job’s mind: he is abased, and will no more contend with the Almighty.
But Job had not only presumed to contend with God, he had charged Him with unrighteousness in His rule of the world and in His treatment of himself. This is the point to which the second speech from the storm is directed.
The passage has properly two parts.
First, Job 40:6-14, as Job had challenged the rectitude of God’s rule of the world, he is ironically invited to clothe himself with the Divine attributes and assume the rule of the world himself.
Then follows, ch. Job 40:15 to Job 41:34, a lengthy description of two monsters, Behemoth and Leviathan.
Second, ch. Job 42:1-6, Job’s reply to the Divine challenge. He confesses that he spoke things which he understood not. He had heard of God by the hearing of the ear, but now his eye saw Him, and he abhorred his former words and demeanour, and repented in dust and ashes.
Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?8. The verse reads,
Wilt thou even disannul my right?
Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be righteous?
To disannul Jehovah’s “right” does not seem to mean, to depose Him from His place as Supreme, but rather to break, or make void, that is, deny His rectitude as Ruler of the world. The second clause suggests this meaning, and also adds the motive under which Job denied the rectitude of God, namely, that he himself might be righteous, or in the right. The word even suggests that this is an offence against God additional to the former one of daring to contend with Him (Job 40:2).
Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?9–14. As Job questions the manner of the Almighty’s rule of the world, God invites him to deck himself with the thunder and majesty of the supreme ruler, and himself undertake the government of the world; and in the execution of this government to bring low all that is proud (comp. Isaiah 2:12 seq.), to subdue and keep down the forces of evil, and hide the faces of the wicked in darkness.
Under this ironical invitation to Job there lie two general thoughts, first, that omnipotence is necessary in the ruler of all; and second, that rule of the world consists in keeping in check the forces of evil. This is the idea under which rule of the world is conceived; in other words it is regarded as necessarily moral; and it is assumed that God’s rule is in fact a rule of this kind. In his present frame of mind Job probably would not now contest this. But if God’s rule be moral on the whole, it must be so in every particular; real exceptions are inconceivable, however like exceptions many things may appear.
Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.10. This verse reads literally,
Deck thyself now with excellency and loftiness;
And array thyself with honour and majesty.
The two words in the second clause are so translated, Psalm 21:5; Psalm 96:6; Psalm 104:1.
Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.11. cast abroad the rage of thy wrath] Or, send forth the floods of thy wrath; the figure is that of a raging, overflowing stream.
Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.12. in their place] That is, where they stand; suddenly and on the spot, comp. ch. Job 34:26.
Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.13. bind their faces in secret] lit. bind up their faces in the hidden place, that is, shut them up in the darkness of the prison-house of Death.
Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.14. The verse reads,
Then will I also praise thee,
That thine own right hand can save thee.
If Job will shew himself worthy of that place to which he aspires when he reproves the rule of God in the universe, then even Jehovah Himself, who elsewhere says, “Is there a God beside me? yea there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:8), will admit his independent might, and laud him as one whose own right hand can save him, comp. Psalm 98:1; Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5.
15—ch. Job 41:34. Description of two monsters, Behemoth and Leviathan.
Many writers consider the two passages, ch. Job 40:15-24 and ch. 41, in which Behemoth and Leviathan are described, to be interpolations (see the Introduction). Whether the passages be interpolations or parts of the original poem, the meaning of their introduction in this place will be the same.
In ch. Job 40:6-14 Jehovah invited Job to assume the rule of the world, and to bring low all opposing forces of evil. He is able to do this, seeing he challenges the rule of the Almighty. And to bring to his consciousness whether he is able or not two creatures, the work of God’s hand like himself (Job 40:15), are brought before him and the question put, Is he able to enter into conflict with them and subdue them? Is he therefore able to assume the rule of the world or to enter into conflict with the Creator of these formidable monsters?—“Who then will stand before me?” ch. Job 41:9-11.
Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.15. Behold now behemoth] The word, behemoth, may be a Heb. plur. of intensity, signifying the beast or ox, par excellence; but probably it is an Egyptian name Hebraized. It has been supposed to be the Egyptian p-ehe-mout, i. e. the water, or river ox. At all events the animal referred to appears to be the hippopotamus, or river-horse, of the Greeks.
I made with thee] Or, have made with thee; that is, have created, as well as thee. This strange animal, though fitted by his size and strength to prey upon other creatures, feeds upon grass like the cattle.
Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.16–18. These verses read,
16. Lo now, his strength is in his loins,
And his force in the sinews of his belly.
17. He bendeth his tail like a cedar;
The muscles of his thighs are knit together.
18. His bones are pipes of brass;
His limbs are like bars of iron.
He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.17. The “tail” of the hippopotamus is short, naked and muscular, resembling that of the hog. The great strength of the animal may be inferred from the muscular stiffness of the tail, which bends like the branch or young stem of a cedar.
His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.18. strong pieces of brass] Rather literally, are pipes of brass.
He is the chief of the ways of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.19, 20. These verses are connected,
19. He is the chief of the ways of God;
He that made him provideth him with his sword;
20. For the mountains, &c.
By “chief,” lit. beginning, is meant the first in magnitude and power, in whom the full, fresh creative force has embodied itself. The meaning of the second clause is less certain. The reference seems to be to the teeth or the eye-tusks of the hippopotamus, which are said to be two feet long, and with which he shears the vegetation as with a sword or sickle.
Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play.20. The verse seems to mean that in order to satisfy his hunger the animal depastures whole mountains, tracts where all the beasts of the field play. The hippopotamus is said to wander to the higher grounds, at a distance from the river, when food cannot be found in its vicinity.
He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens.21. the shady trees] Rather, the lotus trees. And so in Job 40:22.
The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.
Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.23. The verse means,
Behold the stream swelleth, he trembleth not;
He is careless, though Jordan break forth upon his mouth.
The word “swelleth” means lit. oppresses, that is, rushes violently against him. The term “Jordan,” or “a Jordan,” is used by way of example, meaning a violent outbreak of water. The term “break forth” is that used of the sea, ch. Job 38:8.
He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares.24. The meaning probably is,
Shall they take him before his eyes?
Or pierce through his nose with a snare?
“Before his eyes” or “in his sight” (Proverbs 1:17), that is, openly, when the animal is aware. The words might be taken ironically: Let them take him before his eyes! &c. (comp. Proverbs 1:32), but the interrogative form is more natural. Others consider the language to be a statement of fact: they take him before his eyes, &c. But with this sense the whole meaning of the introduction of the creature in this chapter disappears. Such a description might have found a place in the gallery of animal portraits in the previous chapter, but as a companion picture to that of Leviathan it is out of place.