By Leslie M. Grant
In this book Israel is not mentioned, so that it seems Job lived previous to the time of Israel's history, perhaps about the time of Abraham. This book is poetic and magnificently beautiful in its language. Alfred Lord Tennyson, a renowned poet, called it "the greatest poem whether of ancient or modem literature." The writer is unknown, but it is plainly dictated by God, who knew perfectly all the circumstances, the exact words that Satan spoke as well as the Lord in the first and second Chapters, the exact words of Job and of his three friends and of Elihu, then the words God Himself spoke from Chapter 38 to 42:6. Considering all that took place, it could be only God who is the Author.
This does not mean that Job's words or those of his three friends were a revelation from God, but rather that God accurately reported what they said, though in some cases they were wrong. In other cases their words were right, but their application of the truth was not correct. Elihu's words were a much more accurate presentation of the truth.
The work of God in dealing with an individual is displayed wonderfully in this book. Even the most upright and commendable character was reduced to a state of poverty and depression, and afterward recovered and blessed beyond his former dignity. What a lesson for all of us! Can we, who cannot claim (as did Job) any self-righteous honour, expect to escape being humbled if we are to learn rightly of God?
There are five major divisions in the book. Chapters 1 and 2 give a historical introduction. Chapters 3 to 31 record the controversies between Job and his three friends. Chapters 32-37 record the testimony of Elihu. Chapters 38-42:6 give the words of the Lord in reference to His great glory in creation; and finally the last section displays "the end of the Lord," that is, the wonderful result of God's dealings in restoring Job to greater blessing than ever before.
JOB, HIS FAMILY AND HIS PROMINENCE (vv.1-5)
Uz is considered to have been in the area between Syria and Babylon. There Job lived with his wife, seven sons and three daughters. He is first spoken of as "blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil." Thus there is no doubt he was born again, though, as with many believers, he needed to know the heart of God as he did not know it (vv.1-2).
His possessions are recorded as being remarkably great, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 pair of oxen, 500 female donkeys and a very large household, that is, many servants. In fact, he enjoyed the reputation of being the greatest of all the people of the east (v.3). It is frequently the case that when one is seeking to honour God by walking honourably, he will increase in wealth, in spite of the fact that he is not making wealth his object. There is no reason to doubt what Job said in Chapter 29:11-17 as regards his genuine care for the poor, the fatherless, those perishing, the widow and the lame, etc. So that he was definitely not greedy of gain, but used his wealth in kindness toward those in need.
His sons made a practice of feasting, each on a special day and inviting their sisters to eat and drink with them (v.4). This does not necessarily imply that they were given up to a fife of self-indulgence and pleasure, but when each season of feasting was finished, Job considered that the danger of such pleasure might be to lead them into sin and disregard for God. Therefore Job would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings for all of his children, thus sanctifying them, that is, setting them apart from the world of the ungodly. This is another evidence that he lived in the time of Genesis, in which book burnt offerings only are mentioned. In the nation Israel sin offerings, trespass offerings and peace offerings were later introduced in Exodus and Leviticus.
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES (vv.6-12)
Only God could reveal what is written in this section, and faith recognises it must be seriously considered. The sons of God presented themselves before God. These sons of God are angels, though the designation can be true of men also, as in Genesis 6:2 which evidently refers to the line of Seth in contrast to the line of Cain; and in Galatians 3:26, where all believers today are said to be sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. In all of these cases the son's place is to represent the Father, though in Genesis 6:2 they failed to do so. The sons of God here in Job 1:6 appear to be unfallen angels, for fallen angels are not sons of God. Satan came among them, though not one of them.
In answer to the Lord's question as to where he had come from, Satan replied, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth in it" (v.7). This establishes the fact that Satan is not omnipresent, as God is. Satan can be only in one place at a time, however quickly he may travel. Yet he has many agents, evil spirits, who carry on his wicked work throughout the world, and we know that work is prospering dreadfully. Some have questioned too whether Satan knows our thoughts. Absolutely not! Only God knows the hearts and the thoughts of mankind. He only is omniscient.
When Satan came among the sons of God, God questioned Satan as to whether he had considered God's servant Job, concerning whom there was none like him in all the earth, a blameless, upright man who feared God and shunned evil (v.8). Satan's reply showed how void of respect he was toward God. He imputed to Job the same self-centred motives that animate Satan. He said that God had so greatly blessed Job that it was this profitable existence that caused Job to fear God. He forgot to consider that Job's wealth had been only gradually accumulating, as we are sure was the case, for his increase was the result of his faithfulness to God, - not the other way around. In fact, Satan admitted that Job's possessions had "increased in the land" (v.19), so he had not always had such possessions.
Satan boldly asserted that if God would "touch" all that Job had, in other words, take his possessions from him, Job would curse God to His face! (v.11). It seems almost amazing that Satan would dare to speak this way to the Creator of heaven and earth, but "a lying tongue hateth those who are injured by it" (Prov.26:28 - JND trans.). When one lies against another, hatred moves him to do so, and Satan's ties against God are prompted by hatred. Also, one moved by hatred does not stop to consider how foolish his words or actions are.
A matter of great importance is made clearly manifest here. Satan realised that he could do nothing to Job without God's permission. But God did give Satan permission to do as he pleased with Job's possessions, though not to touch his person. Did God allow this only to prove that Satan was speaking falsely? No, for God had work to do with Job himself, to accomplish greater blessing for him than he could have imagined was possible. God would use the enmity of Satan to this end, just as later He used Job's three friends for this purpose.
JOB LOSES HIS POSSESSIONS AND HIS CHILDREN (vv.13-22)
Satan marshalled his forces concertedly against Job, so that Job had news of four sudden calamities that deprived him of all his possessions and all of his children on the same day. The first messenger told him that a marauding band of enemies (the Sabeans) had killed Job's servants who were in charge of his oxen and donkeys, and had stolen the animals (vv.14-15). Satan had allowed one man to live, who carried this message to Job. But while he was still speaking, another messenger came to tell Job that fire had fallen from heaven and burned up Job's sheep and servants, only sparing this one man to bear the message (v.16). It was of course Satan who had power to bring this fire, whatever the source may have been, but the servant called it "the fire of God."
While this messenger was still speaking, another came with the message that three bands of Chaldeans had raided the habitat of the camels, stealing the camels and killing the servants; though Satan had allowed this one man to escape and bring the message to Job (v.17).
But the most crushing blow of all followed immediately. While this man was speaking, another came to inform Job that while his sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother's house, a great wind (perhaps a tornado) struck the house, destroying it utterly and killing all of Job's ten children (vv.18-19). The messenger said he alone had escaped to bring the report to Job. He may have been one of the servants of Job's son. But Satan allowed these four messengers to remain alive so that Job would receive the news rapidly, blow upon blow. Satan designed these things with the object of totally devastating Job, so that he would curse God.
What must Satan have thought when he found himself completely defeated? Job arose and tore his robe (a sign of repentance), shaved his head, a picture of his being exposed before God in a condition of weakness, then fell to the ground in humble prostration before his Creator. All of these are negatives, implying denial of self. But lastly, and most important of all, he worshiped, giving God the place of highest honour and dignity (v.20). To those who have no faith in the living God, worship is one thing they would not think of considering. It is natural rather to bitterly complain that they do not deserve the treatment they are receiving. Thus the majority of men would be willing to be deceived by the same selfish motives that energise Satan, rather than to be moved by a true response of faith to all the bitter experiences of life. Job's words then should deeply impress themselves on every person who hears them, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (v.21). A complaining attitude will never change matters for the better, while a thankful heart will be more greatly blessed in the end.
Therefore, what an answer is Job's attitude to those who claim that their hard circumstances are an excuse for sinning! "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God foolishly" (v.22). Many since Job's time have proven this though enduring terrible afflictions and trouble. Rather than alienating them from God, their troubles have driven them into His presence to find comfort and joyful communion with the Lord. Job still had much to learn, as we oft do, yet his response to trouble shows the reality of his faith in the Lord.
SATAN INFLICTS BODILY SUFFERING ON HIM (vv.1-10),
Another day comes when Satan presents himself to God among the sons of God, and his response to God's first question was the same as in Chapter 1. Then God faces him with the fact that Job had not done what Satan said he would if deprived of his possessions (v.3). Certainly Satan ought to have acknowledged he had been wrong and to have apologised for his manifest error. But Satan is like too many people. Instead of admitting wrong, they want to bolster their pride by introducing another possibility which is just as faulty as Satan's first claim.
Satan's words, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life" are sadly true of an unbeliever, but faith is something that Satan does not understand. He confidently asserted that if God would afflict Job bodily, Job would surely curse God to His face (vv.4-5).
Therefore God gave Satan permission to do as he pleased in afflicting Job's body, while sparing his life (v.6). It may seem heartless on God's part to give Satan such permission, but God's pure love was in this in a way that unbelief cannot understand, for this eventually worked for greater blessing, But Satan did show himself heartless, for he wanted only to accomplish Job's downfall.
We may wonder how Satan has ability to inflict a man with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (v.7), but this does show that Satan can cause physical ills as well as promoting spiritual falsehood, and he will use all of these to the fullest advantage he can. But thank God, Satan cannot steal away the faith of the child of God! In fact, when Satan has done his worst, he vanishes from the scene, for we do not read any more about him in this book. Though he was so completely defeated, we do not read that he ever honestly admitted defeat.
However, we read much more of Job. Sitting in an ash heap, he used a potsherd to scrape the sores that pained him. What a dreadful contrast to his former prosperity and dignity! Also, his wife, his only near relative remaining, was not only no help to him, but practically abusive. She could not understand his uncomplaining attitude, and asked him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity?" But worse still, she advised him to "curse God and die!" (v.9).
How true and faithful was Job's response! - "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (v.10). Job did not call her a foolish woman, but rightly said she was speaking as one. He was careful still to guard his lips, so that in all this he did not sin. This is not the usual way in which men would be affected, and his patient self-restraint is surely to be admired.
THREE FRIENDS COME (vv.11-13)
Though Satan had been defeated, yet God had serious lessons still for Job to learn, so that He allowed three of his friends to come in order that Job would express to them what was really in his heart, and at the same time that his friends would learn the sin of their own hearts. These friends had made an appointment to come together to commiserate with Job and comfort him (v.11). This was their avowed object, though they actually went further than this.
On arrival they were deeply affected in seeing Job's condition, they wept and tore their garments, sprinkling dust on their heads in token of humbly feeling their compassion for him (v.12). They must have had a great deal of regard for Job, for they sat down with him for seven days, not speaking (v.13).
JOB'S BITTER COMPLAINT (vv.1-26)
Though Job would not dare to curse God for his trouble, yet it seems that the presence of his friends only caused a stronger, gradual build-up of bitter distress in the heart of Job, so that eventually the thoughts of his heart broke out in words of painful complaint.
WISHING HE HAD NEVER BEEN BORN (vv.1-10)
Job did not even now charge God foolishly, but he did curse the day of his birth. This was not directly blaming God, but however little he realised it, he was indirectly blaming God, for it was God who gave him life. The language of Job is amazingly graphic, as indeed are all his succeeding speeches and those of his friends. Job's grief was so deep that he did not even consider that what he was saying was an impossibility. How could the day perish in which Job was born? (v.3). How could history reverse itself? That day had passed long before and at the time was a day of light that a man-child had been born into the world. Could Job's words change that light to darkness? He mentions God once in this section, desiring that God would ignore that day (v.4). Later Job would thank God he had been born, and that thankfulness will endure for eternity. But when trouble comes such as Job was called to bear, we do not tend to think soberly and with calm deliberation, though wishful thinking will never accomplish anything. The doors of Job's mother's womb had been opened long ago (v.10), and Job knew this could never be reversed. But he was moved by his anguish, not by faith.
WISHING HE HAD DIED AT BIRTH (vv.11-19)
If it could not be that Job could reverse the fact of his birth, yet he now expressed the wish that he had died at birth. Was there any more hope of this than that he had never been born? Of course not! If only he had died, he says, he would be at rest (v.13). In death at least, he affirms, the wicked cease from troubling, the weary are at rest, the prisoners are released and the slave is free from his master (vv.17-19). But wishing is not facing facts as they are. Faith faces facts and gives God credit for doing what He knows is best. But Job's faith had become very weak.
WISHING FOR DEATH NOW (vv.20-26)
In these verses Job comes closer to facing facts as they actually were. He was in misery and bitterness of soul, and he questions why life should be given to one in such a state, though he longs for death and it does not come. It is good, however, that he does not even consider suicide, as many would do today who are in such a condition. Satan had been told to spare Job's life while being allowed to make him suffer so grievously, and God knew Job's sufferings were necessary to accomplish results of great blessing. So that Job's wish for death was not according to the will of God. Job would not die until God ordained it so.
In verse 25 Job records the fact that the thing he greatly feared had come upon him. Such a thing often happens. He had not been feeling secure and confident of continuing in constant prosperity. He greatly feared that he might be reduced as now he found himself to be. Sometimes people are mortally afraid they might contract a certain disease, and that disease overtakes them. Why? Is it not because God is showing them that His grace is sufficient for them even in the most dreaded circumstances? Thus Job was not at ease, not quiet; he had no rest, yet trouble came (v.26). He needed to learn the heart of God as he did not know it.
ELIPHAZ: COMMENDATION TWISTED INTO REBUKE (vv.1-6)
The three friends of Job could only think of God's justice in reference to Job's sufferings, and had no idea of God's love. Eliphaz no doubt thought he would help Job by his remarkable knowledge and ability in speaking, but his diagnosis of Job's ailment was totally wrong. He begins gently and kindly, "If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary? But who can withhold himself from speaking? (v.12). Then he rightly reminds Job that he (Job) had instructed many, he had strengthened weak hands, his words had supported those who stumbled, he had strengthened the feeble knees (vv.3-4). Since this was true, should Eliphaz not have given due weight to such excellent character on Job's part, and expressed some genuine appreciation of it?
Instead, Eliphaz virtually thrust a sword into Job's soul by criticising him for being depressed when trouble comes to him (v.5). Why did Eliphaz not do as he says Job had done in the past, strengthening the weak hands and upholding those who stumbled? It is easy for us to discern what we think is wrong in another without providing for him what might be for his help. He asks Job, "Is not your reverence your confidence?" Because Job had true reverence toward God he had confidence in regard to all his former life. Also he speaks of Job's integrity (which he knew to be true) being his hope, that is, that Job had a right to look forward to the future because of his integrity.
ELIPHAZ INFERS THAT JOB HAD SINNED (vv.7-11)
Eliphaz therefore comes quickly to the conclusion that Job must have badly compromised his reverence and his integrity, since he was now reduced to a pathetic state. He had absolutely no evidence that Job had sinned but he considered Job's condition evidence enough that he must have sinned. He says, "Who ever perished being innocent?" But Job had not perished." "Where were the upright ever cut off?" But Job was not cut off. God might indeed cut off a wicked man because he continued to refuse God's reproofs, as Proverbs 29:1 tells us, "He who is often rebuked and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, And that without remedy." But there was not the slightest indication that this applied to Job, whom God said was "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job.1:8).
In verse 8 Eliphaz appeals to his own observation as though this was a final authority. He had seen that those who plough iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. This was true enough, but had he seen Job ploughing iniquity or sowing trouble? Certainly not! But he assumed that since Job was suffering trouble, he must have secretly engaged in evil. He does not even consider the difference between a believer and an unbeliever in the way in which God deals toward them. An unbeliever, because of his sin, may perish by the blast of God and by the breath of His anger. The strength of this evil may be compared to the roaring of a lion, but even the teeth of the young lions would be broken. Since Job could be compared to a lion in the previous strength of his wealth, now he was like a lion that perishes or the lioness losing her cubs. Eliphaz does not say this to encourage Job, however, but to imply that Job must have brought this calamity on himself by secret sin.
A SOUL-STIRRING VISION (vv.12-21)
Eliphaz describes in most graphic language a night vision he had experienced in quiet secrecy that had a profound effect upon him. He was evidently in a deep sleep when he was shaken by a paroxysm of fear and trembling (v.14). A spirit passed before his face, causing his hair to stand up. A form was present, but undiscernible in its appearance. No doubt God intended by this to awaken the serious attention of Eliphaz, and He succeeded.
The vision was not the most vital thing here, but the message to which the vision drew attention. After a brief silence, Eliphaz heard a voice, "Can mortal man be more righteous than God? 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 to evening; they perish forever, with no one regarding. Does not their own excellence go away? They die, even without wisdom" (vv.17-21).
How true and applicable are such words to all of mankind, but Eliphaz was applying it only to Job, not to himself, because Eliphaz did not consider himself "crushed before a moth" and "broken in pieces." This had happened to Job, so that Eliphaz considered his vision as applying directly to Job. But a vision or dream is intended to apply directly to the one who has it, and Eliphaz missed that one important fact. Similarly, we may hear good ministry which we think to be more applicable to others than to ourselves. Eliphaz could see that Job's excellence was going away, but the fact was that the excellence of Eliphaz would go away too, as in the case of all men. It appeared to him that Job's condition was such that he was about to die, but death would eventually claim Eliphaz also. Job did not die until years later, yet "it is appointed unto all men once to die" (Heb. 9:27). If Eliphaz had learned the lesson God intended, he would not have spoken to Job the way he did.
FURTHER OBSERVATIONS BY ELIPHAZ (vv.1-27)
Eliphaz suggests to Job that he call out to creatures for help, even to holy ones - holy men or angels, - and see if anyone will answer him (v.1). He is implying that Job is not seeking God in his affliction, while in contrast to Job, Eliphaz claims, "As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause" (v.8). He fears that Job has been guilty of too closely resembling a foolish man (v.2), and warns him as to what he had observed in the foolish taking root (v.3) but was suddenly exposed to a curse, his sons being far from safety, being crushed in the gate (v.3), Job's sons had died suddenly. Was Job therefore a foolish man? Eliphaz did not say so, but he implied that Job might be perilously close to such a charge, for Eliphaz had observed foolish people suffering, and reasoned that since Job was suffering as he did there must be in Job something seriously wrong. Job's harvest (all the substance he had gained) was eaten up (v.5). Why? For he says affliction does not come from the dust or trouble from the ground (v.6). In other words, trouble does not happen by chance. This is true, for there is no doubt that God is behind it; and the observation of Eliphaz in verse 7 is very true also, "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. "Eliphaz was thinking of Job when he said this. But trouble is the portion of all mankind.
"But as for me," Eliphaz says, "I will seek God, and to God I would commit my cause" (v.8). Of course it is good to do this, but Eliphaz says it as though he was above Job's level. He continues to speak rightly of how great God is, doing great things, unsearchable and marvellous, sending rain for man's blessing, lifting up the lowly to places of dignity (vv.9-11). But Job at the time was not lifted up, so Eliphaz thought Job was not right with God!
On the other hand, he said God "frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot carry out their plans. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them" (vv.12-13). He does not at first accuse Job of deceit, but implies this might be the case since Job's plans had been frustrated. Eliphaz had observed that such things happened to crafty men, but why did he not also observe that the righteous oftentimes suffered similar frustration?
He had observed too that the Lord saves the needy from the sword and from the mouth (the cruel accusations) of powerful men and from their persecution, so that the poor have hope and injustice is silenced (vv.15-16). This is true in the long run: God will certainly silence injustice. But in the meantime injustice often seems to prevail, and for this Eliphaz had no answer.
Again, he voices an excellent principle, "Happy is the man whom God corrects" (v.17). But Job did not feel happy. Of course, God was only beginning His correcting work with Job, and Job did not discern it. Eliphaz could tell him, "Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty, for He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole. He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you" (vv.17-19). If Eliphaz had spoken this to Job in a kind and encouraging way, it may have helped Job, but he was blaming Job for not having gained such blessing by confessing he was guilty of secret sin.
In verses 20 to 27 Eliphaz describes the many blessings that would be Job's if he took the advice of Eliphaz. Actually, these blessings were eventually given to Job after God spoke to him in Chapters 38-41, and Job was broken down to judge the pride of his own sinful nature, but Eliphaz had not discerned what Job really needed, the same need that Eliphaz himself had. Perhaps Eliphaz learned this in some measure also after God spoke to him (Ch.42:7-9). But in verse 27 of Chapter 5, he confidently told Job, "Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear it, and know for yourself." Again, it is his own observation that he depends on, but he urges Job to hear it and know for himself. Can we so depend on another person's word as to know it is fact? No: we need more than another person's observation, we need the Word of God to be certain as to any serious matter.
JOB'S REPLY TO ELIPHAZ (vv.1-30)
It is remarkable that Job, being in the painful condition he was, was still able to reply in such capable and stirring language to Eliphaz. He knew that Eliphaz had not shown any understanding of Job's predicament, and he again emphasised the unutterable pain and grief that had overtaken him. He knew Eliphaz had not weighed Job's grief accurately, or he would have had more compassion for the poor sufferer (vv.2-3). Job says, "Therefore my words have been rash," that is, he had spoken as one in deepest anguish, so that he had inferred that God was not just in allowing this suffering to one who was upright. Of course it is rash to say such a thing, but Job's friends should have realised that Job's condition was such that wrong words were virtually forced from his mouth. Could they not make some allowance for this?
He goes on to describe something of the awfulness of his grief, speaking of "the arrows of the Almighty" piercing him and God's terrors arrayed against him. "Does the wild donkey bray when it has grass," he asks. If his situation was favourable, would Job be crying out as he was? Why would he be like an ox lowing when it was satisfied? The ox will not do that. Where was the salt to give some savour to the things Job had to bear? What comfort could he get from having to virtually eat the slime of an egg? He was left with no desire for food, in fact considered food loathsome (v.7).
Again he expresses his desire for death, for which he had prayed before. He could not understand why God did not answer such a prayer, for he was sure death was preferable to the anguish he was suffering (vv.8-9). Yet he did not think of suicide being an option. He says he has not concealed the words of the Holy One. He had not been guilty of covering up anything that God has spoken (v.10): could God not then listen to Job's prayer for death?
He felt he had no strength to even hope for anything better on earth, and no prospect of anything better, for which his life should be prolonged (v.11). Was he as strong and hard as stone or bronze that he could bear all his affliction with no feeling? (v.12). He could not look within himself for any help, and soundness (even sound reasoning) was virtually impossible to him (v.13 - JND trans.).
In verse 14 Job rightly remonstrates to the effect that kindness ought to be shown to one who was afflicted, even if that one had gone so far as to "forsake the fear of the Almighty." Not that Job had done so, but Eliphaz suspected he was on the verge of this. But in contrast to showing sympathy for Job, he says, "My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook, like the streams of the brook that pass away," that is, the streams in winter swollen by snow and ice, promising blessing and refreshment, is soon dried up, leaving nothing of blessing behind (vv.16-17). Travellers may come, expecting water, but are disappointed to find nothing and are confused. Job thus expressed his own confusion at the words of Eliphaz (vv.19-20).
Job asks, "Did I ever say, 'Bring something to me?'" (v.22). Job had not even asked his three friends to come, let alone asking them for some benefit from their hands. Why did they then accuse him when all he needed was a little sympathy?
If they had something profitable and true to teach him, Job would willingly hold his tongue and listen. If he had erred as they supposed, why did they not tell him in what way he had erred (v.24). Right words would have been forceful and effective, but their arguments proved nothing (v.25). They rebuked his words that issued from his desperation, with no consideration of the depth of his suffering (v.26). They sought to overwhelm the fatherless, which seems to infer that Job's father had died, so that he did not have a father to help him; and they were undermining their own friend, a heartless attitude in contrast to former friendship (v.27).
Then Job pleads with them to just look at him. Did they see deceit in his countenance? He insists, "I would never lie to your face;" yet they were certain he must be concealing sin in his life (v.28). "Yield now," he tells them, let them not be guilty of injustice in their attitude. "Yes, concede my righteousness still stands!" Had his character changed since they last saw him?
DOES GOD NOT RECOMPENSE GOOD DEEDS? (vv.1-16)
Job's questions in verse 1 indicate why he was so distressed at God's dealings. No doubt too his friends would agree to his questions. "Is there not a time of hard service for man on earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hired man?" How many people are like Job in this matter. They consider their relationship to God as being like that of a hired man working for a righteous employer. If they do right, their recompense should be good: if they do wrong, they expect a painful recompense. But Job was suffering agonising pain. Was this the recompense for the good he had done? He had looked eagerly for his wages for doing good (v.2), and found himself enduring months of futility and wearisome nights, tossing to and fro in his bed, his flesh caked with worms and dust (vv.3-5).
Thus, Job was inferring that God was unfair in recompensing evil for good. Of course God is not unfair, and his friends, in trying to defend God's righteousness, were guilty of deciding that God was recompensing Job for his secretly doing evil. How sadly wrong in their thoughts were both Job and his friends! God was seeking to teach Job that his relationship to Him must not be that of one working for wages, but that of one whom God loved and who loved God, therefore doing good simply out of a heart of love, expecting no payment for it. Job did not at this time understand this, and neither did his friends.
In verse 6 to 10 then Job continues his description of the anguish that he endured, his days spent without hope, expecting to never see good again (vv.6-7). Thus to him his future appeared bleak and hopeless. How wrong he was! - for God had designed greater blessing for him in the future than he had ever known before; and in fact eternity has infinitely greater blessing yet. But in the meanwhile Job's feelings were those of defeat and misery, considering his life as a cloud that appears and vanishes away. Death would overtake him and he would never return to his house (vv.9-10). Actually, he desired to die: why then did he think so hopelessly as to the results of death? But our feelings often cause us to be inconsistent. Of course at that time he could not know the marvel of the death of Christ completely answering the many distressing questions that death poses. We who know Christ today have reason for deepest thanksgiving for the value of His sacrifice on Calvary and His resurrection from among the dead.
However, Job, basing his words on the feeling he has expressed, says he will not restrain his mouth, but will speak in the anguish of his spirit and complain in the bitterness of his soul (v.11). If we give way to our feelings, the effects will always be this way: we shall not be able to restrain our mouths. Sober wisdom and concern for the truth will teach us to restrain our words, but our feelings will lead us to express ourselves unadvisedly. "Am I a sea," Job asks, that is, a huge, uncontrolled creature, or simply a sea serpent, so bent on its own will that Job's friends think it necessary to impose their authority upon him (v.12).
When he looked for comfort in lying down in his bed, then he says they "scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions" (vv.23-24). He refers to the vision Eliphaz claimed to have had, and which Job considered to be, not for his comfort, but to frighten him, and this moved him all the more to choose to die, so that he declares bitterly, "I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are but a breath" (v.16). We can understand that Job would prefer to be left alone rather than to have the cold criticism of his friends.
JOB SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO GOD (vv.17-21)
Though answering Eliphaz, Job now addresses God directly, and in the same complaining way. "What is man?" he asks, that God should exalt him to a place where he is subjected to many direct inflictions that he considers sent by God Himself. Was Job so important that God should spend such time in dealing so hardly with him, testing him every moment? (vv.17-18). The actual answer to this is, "Yes." God considers every believer important enough for God to spend time in putting him through serious trials of faith. "How long?" (v.19). It seemed too long to Job, but God knows just the length of time that is necessary to accomplish His own ends in every case.
"Will you not look away from me and let me alone till I swallow down my saliva?" He realised that God was actually putting the pressure on him, and pleaded for relief from this. Supposing it true that he had sinned, yet what harm had this done to God whom he calls the Observer of men?" (v.20). Was God observing merely with a cold vindictive attitude, making Job a target for His temper - so that Job became a burden to himself? If Job had sinned in whatever minor measure, why would God not pardon this and take away his iniquity? (v.21). He knew he had not willingly rebelled against God in any way, and could not understand why God would not pardon any minor infractions. Now all he could do was lie down in the dust, so humiliated that God would not even be able to find him! - he would "no longer be." Of course Job's words are ill-considered, the expressions of a tortured mind. Yet it is as well that what is in the heart comes out.
BILDAD'S CRUEL RESPONSE (vv.1-22)
Bildad's response to Job was much more brief than that of Eliphaz, but following along the same line. He did not begin in the conciliatory way that Eliphaz did, however, not even attempting to show any understanding of Job's feelings. Rather, he spoke as one exasperated, immediately accusing Job of allowing words to issue from his mouth that were only "a strong wind" (v.2). "Does God subvert judgment? Or does the Almighty pervert justice?" he asks (v.3). He was ignorant of how God was dealing with Job, but was sure God was punishing him righteously, though he had no knowledge of any actual evil on Job's part.
Then he makes a cruel thrust at Job by suggesting that Job's sons had died because they had sinned against God, so that God coldly cast them away for their transgressions (v.4). This was not true, but what was Job to answer? Thus, Bildad condemned Job's dead sons, then proceeded to attack Job himself, telling him that if he would earnestly seek God in supplication and if he were pure and upright, then God would surely immediately awake for him and turn his misery into prosperity (vv.5-6). Of course in this he implied that Job had not been pure and upright and had not before earnestly sought God. But now, if he would do as Bildad advised, Job's end would increase abundantly, though his beginning was small (v.7).
Eliphaz had appealed to his own observation in supposing that Job was guilty of some secret sin (ch.4:8), but his observation settled nothing. Now Bildad appealed to tradition , "Inquire, please, of the former age, and consider things discovered by their fathers; for we were born yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words from their heart?" (vv.8-10). Actually, in this Bildad contradicted what Eliphaz had said, for if Eliphaz had only been born "yesterday", what value was his observation? But Bildad's appeal to tradition was just as empty as the appeal of Eliphaz to observation, for Bildad came to the wrong conclusion also.
Yet Bildad had much to say that was right and good. The papyrus will not grow without a marsh, nor the reeds without water (v.11). There is always a reason for things developing, but Bildad did not interpret that reason accurately in Job's case. Also he says that a reed may wither while yet green, and he uses this as a simile for those who forget God (vv.11-12). True enough, but he was suggesting wrongly that Job had forgotten God, and the fact that Job's hope seemed to be perishing indicated that he must be a hypocrite (v.13). It is certainly true that the hypocrite's hope shall perish, but to apply this to Job was totally unfair.
Bildad saw that Job' confidence had been shaken, and considered his confidence was "cut off," as though he had been trusting a spider's web (v.14). He further says, "He leans on his house, but it does not stand" (v.15). Of course he is thinking of the fact that Job had depended on the stability of his house, but it had collapsed: all his family was gone.
In verses 16 and 17 he speaks of the hypocrite at first growing green in the sun, his branches spreading out, his roots wrapped around the rock heap, seemingly prospering well. But he may be destroyed from his place, with his place denying that it had ever seen him (v.18), that is, with no evidence that he had ever been prosperous. This description may be true indeed of the hypocrite in his eventual exposure and humiliation, but Bildad hinted that since Job had suffered things similar to the destruction he speaks of, therefore Job must be a hypocrite! But Bildad did not yet know the end of the story, and his assumptions were ill-considered and false.
"Behold, this is the joy of his way" (v.19), that is, the joy of the hypocrite is only brief and ends abruptly. "And out of the earth others will grow." The hypocrites will be forgotten, for others will be born to take their place. In contrast to this, "God will not cast away the blameless, "while He will not uphold evil doers (v.20). If Job were blameless, God would fill Job's mouth with laughing and his lips with rejoicing (v.21). No doubt Bildad was implying that Job could even yet find such blessing if he would return to living a blameless life. Then also, even those who hated Job would be clothed with shame, and the dwelling place of the wicked would be reduced to nothing (v.20). He did not mean to say that Job was wicked, but that the wicked who opposed Job would then be subdued.
If we consult the psalms of David, we shall find that David had a far better understanding of God's ways than either Eliphaz or Bildad expressed, and far better also than Job understood when passing through his dreadful ordeal. Psalm 11:4-5 tells us, "The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous." Faith recognises that the Lord is high above us, His wisdom infinitely greater than we realise. And from His place of highest authority, He tests the children of men. This is through adversity and trouble. No doubt He tests all men, but when some fail the test they are virtually discarded. What then? Then "the Lord tests the righteous." He gives them additional trouble to test them thoroughly. Job only learned this later.
HOW CAN MAN BE JUST BEFORE GOD? (vv.1-13)
Job's reply to Bildad occupies two Chapters, 35 verses longer than Bildad's arguments had taken. But Job acknowledged, "Truly, I know it is so," that is, he knew that what Bildad said of the end of the hypocrite was true, not the way in which Bildad inferred that Job might be a hypocrite. Then he asks a question of deepest significance, "But how can a man be righteous before God?" (v.2). Comparatively speaking, Job knew that he had been righteous before men, and God Himself had confirmed this in speaking to Satan (ch.1:8). But only the New Testament answers Job's question satisfactorily. It , is said of believers, "you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor.1:30). The work of Christ in His sacrifice on Calvary has accomplished a righteous basis for our eternal salvation, so that by faith in Christ we are counted righteous before God. Of course Job could not understand this at the time, for Christ had not yet died for us.
But Job acknowledges in verse 3 that even if he wished to argue his case with God, the odds against him were at least 1000 to one! There was evidence enough that God was wise in heart and mighty in strength. If one hardened himself against God he would certainly not prosper. God could remove mountains by an earthquake, shaking the earth and causing its most stable influences to tremble. Also, high above the earth, He could command the sun not to rise, that is, so far as our vision is concerned. Of course He does this by placing clouds in the sky, so that the stars too are sealed off from view. He "alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea." Whether the earth or sky or sea, He is in perfect control. There is a precious New Testament confirmation of His control of the sea, when "Jesus went to them, walking on the sea" (Mt.14:25), a clear proof that Jesus is God.
"He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades and the chambers of the south" (v.9). All the constellations of the stars are His workmanship. Notice, at this early date these astronomical facts were known. Job could speak knowledgeably of the greatness of God just as effectively, if not much more so, than Bildad. As he says, God "does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number" (v.10). In fact, God's movements are such that Job could not see Him in action, though God can accomplish what no one can hinder (vv.11-12). He will not withdraw His anger from anything contrary to Him, and those who identify themselves with the proud will be prostrated under His feet.
JOB FINDS HE CANNOT DEFEND HIMSELF (vv.14-20)
What words does Job have with which to answer God? He feels unable to choose words that might have any effect. However righteous he may be, he felt hopelessly unable to make any impression on God by his speaking. He feels he could only beg for mercy from Him whom he calls, "my Judge," but even then he doubted that God would listen to his voice (vv.15-16). For instead of God listening, Job saw Him as crushing him with a tempest and multiplying Job's wounds without any actual cause (v.17). This seemed so incessant that Job felt God was not giving him time to even catch his breath, so that he was filled with bitterness.
If Job thought of strength (of which he had none), it was borne upon him that God is strong; and if of justice, of course God has both strength and justice on His side, but Job felt he was not even allowed a day in court to plead his cause. In fact, if he were given this privilege, he felt that though he was righteous, just opening his mouth would prove his undoing: even though blameless, his mouth would prove him perverse! (v.20). What does he mean? Is he not saying, in effect, that no matter how blameless he is, just his speaking proves to his friends that he must be dishonest and perverse?
THE BLAMELESS SUFFER LIKE THE WICKED (vv.21-24)
Job insists that he is blameless (v.21), yet in spite of this he was brought down to despise his life (v.21). He was, put on the same level as a wicked man: "it is all one thing," that is, the righteous and the wicked were lumped together in the way God dealt with them. "Therefore I say, He also destroys the blameless and the wicked" (v.22). It is true that this appears to be the case more often than not in our present life. How different however in the long run!
But Job goes too far in verse 23, "If the scourge slays suddenly, He laughs at the plight of the innocent." Job felt that God was practically laughing at Job's distress, as though it was no matter for Job to complain about at all. Thus Job felt utterly in the minority, for the earth seemed to be given into the hand of the wicked, with God covering the faces of its judges, since judges were unreliable men. If God was not in control of these things, who else could possibly be in control, he argues (v.24). When we see everything on earth in confusion, it seems to many people that there is no God in control of things at all. In all of these things, if we depend on our own understanding, we shall be left in utter confusion; and thus Job needed the verse that was written much later in history, "Trust in the Lord with all, your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov.3:5).
PURITY IMPOSSIBLE AND NO MEDIATOR (vv.25-35)
Job felt his days swiftly passing with nothing accomplished: "they flee away, they see no good" (v.25). Could he force himself to put off his sad face and wear a smile? How could he do this when his painful sufferings left him in fear? He feels that God does not hold him innocent or he would not be suffering as he was (v.28). Why did he labour to do what was good if this only led to his being condemned? If he had done his best to wash himself with snow water and cleanse his hands with soap, this energy was proven worthless, for God plunged him into a pit of mud, so that his own clothes would be insulted if he put them on (vv.30-31). What value was there therefore in his labouring to maintain purity?
Where could Job turn in such a case? For, as he says, God "is not a man as I am." that is, God is so much higher than Job that he could not expect God to come down to his level, as in a law court, so that there could be an understanding between them (v.32). "Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both (v.33). Thus Job recognised the need of a mediator between God and men, and this verse surely anticipates the coming of the Lord Jesus as seen in the New Testament, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim.2:5). The Word of God insists that Christ is "The Man," who can lay His hand upon men, and being also "God manifest in flesh" He can lay His hand upon God. Job did not know this, but later on when the young man Elihu spoke (ch.32-37), his words were much like a mediator, for he is a type of Christ.
Meanwhile, however, Job pleaded for God to withdraw His rod of correction from him, for he felt his dread of God to be terrifying. If God would only do this, Job might not be afraid to speak to Him, but as he says, "it is not so with me" (vv.14-15).
AN ATTEMPT TO REASON WITH GOD (vv.1-22)
Since there was no mediator, Job in this Chapter (from verse 2 on) directs all of his words directly to God, reasoning with Him as regards why God should deal with him in the way He was doing. He begins his compliant by repeating that his soul loathes his life, therefore he would allow himself to give free course to his bitter complaint by directly addressing God, pleading with Him, "Do not condemn me." God had certainly not condemned him, though he felt as though this was true because of his sufferings. "Show me why You contend with me" (v.2). In one respect it was true that God was contending with Job, and Job did not learn why until the last Chapter of this book. He required this painful experience to learn that his own nature was sinful and to learn the pure grace and goodness of the Lord Himself.
"Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?" (v.3). It is true that Job was the work of God's hands, for his own nature, as being born of God, was certainly God's workmanship. But it was not true that God was despising His own work, though Job felt that way, and specially so when he saw that wicked men appeared to prosper some of the time, but certainly all the wicked do not prosper all the time.
Do You have eyes of flesh? or do You see as man sees?" Job asks the Lord (v.4). Was God coming down to the level of a mortal man, that He should occupy Himself with searching out what might be iniquity in Job, as his three friends were doing, although, as Job says, God knew that Job was not wicked (vv.5-7). The friends might suppose that Job was guilty of hidden wickedness, but God knew this was not true. Still, God's hand was heavy on Job, and no one could deliver Job from that hand. Actually, God's hand was accomplishing blessing for Job that he did not then understand, so it was good for Job to be kept in God's hand, even when he felt it to be hard. "Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity" (v.8). This was true of Job physically and true also spiritually. All the various members of the body are marvellous in their individual functions and marvellous in their functioning unitedly It might have helped Job to consider this more thoroughly, for none of us can understand how the eye, the ear, the tongue, the brain, the heart are able to function in the amazing way they do, and how all can act in perfect unison with one another. For this is God's work, much beyond our understanding. We should therefore expect God to do things in connection with us that are also higher than we can understand. If Job would just have patience in trusting God; then God would eventually make matters clearer to him. Complaining would accomplish nothing, yet Job complains that God now, after having wrought so marvellously in making him, is seeking to destroy him. Did he have to tell God to remember that He had made Job like clay? (v.9). But he felt he was being turned into dust again, the moisture gone out of the clay. In the past he recognised that God had spent time on him to pour him out like milk and curdle him like cheese, clothe his body with skin and flesh and join it together with bones and sinews (v.11), given life to that body and showing gracious favour to Job, caring too for more than his body, but preserving his spirit (v.12).
Since God had shown Himself most kind and considerate of Job in the past, Job could not understand why God could now be acting inconsistently with His previous dealings with him. "These things You have hidden in Your heart," he says (v.13). However, since this was true, God must have a good reason for hiding His counsels, and Job ought to have realised that God would reveal His mind in His own time.
On the one hand, Job knew that if he sinned God would mark this and not acquit him, for at that time Job did not know "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," but for sin he could only expect "woe." On the other hand, even if he was righteous (as he considered himself to be), he could not lift up his head, for he was in a state of misery and confusion, full of disgrace (vv.14-15).
His head had been exalted, but now he feels that God is hunting him like a fierce lion, showing Himself so awesome as to inspire fear in the poor man's heart (v.16). Also God had arrayed witnesses against him in the persons of his three friends, thus increasing His indignation against Job (v.17). He felt himself continually changing from one evil to another as though his own soul was the area of warfare.
If thus Job was living only for trouble, he considered, why then had God allowed him to be born? How much better he thought it would have been if only he had died before birth, so that he not be seen on earth, but rather carried from the womb to the grave (vv.18-19). His days were few enough without having troubles multiplied. So he tells God to "cease," that is, to leave him alone (v.20). Did he not stop to think this was an insolent way to speak to his Maker? But he was too distressed to think soberly.
Should he not have a little comfort before he went to the place from which he would not return, the land of darkness and the shadow of death, where even the light is like darkness? (vv.21-22). Little did he realise that God would give him more than a little comfort in this present world, and that he would go eventually to a land of pure light and unspeakable joy. For he did not have the great revelation that believers have today, of the matchless grace of the Lord Jesus for every present need and the eternal glory of His presence into which every believer will enter in the future.
ZOPHAR'S CRUEL ACCUSATION (vv.1-6)
Zophar was likely the youngest of the three men, and what he lacks in maturity he makes up for in bitter accusation against Job. He did not have such restraint as Eliphaz, nor such ability for argument as Bildad, but he does not restrain his bad temper. His appeal was not to his observation (as was that of Eliphaz), nor to the traditions such as Bildad had learned, but rather to his own intuition. He considered he instinctively knew the answer to Job's dilemma, and thought that Job needed only to learn "the secrets of wisdom" (v.6) as Zophar discerned them. He was evidently the most arrogant of all three friends of Job, the most self-confident.
He immediately attacks Job for his "multitude of words." Those words were too much for him to answer, so he resorts to the subterfuge of accusing Job of being merely "full of talk," and "empty talk" at that (v.2). He did not stop to consider that Job's words had been directed to God, not to him, but seems to think that he can answer satisfactorily for God! He was going to show Job that if Job could talk, he could talk too: he would not hold his peace. He accused Job of mocking, which was not true: Job was too intensely distressed to mock, but Zophar thought he needed to be reproved (v.3). Since Job had indicated his doctrine was pure and his conduct clean, Zophar was actually accusing God of being remiss in not speaking out against Job! (v.4), so that Zophar does what he thinks God ought to have done! He knew Job had criticised God, but now he was doing the same without realising it! He had found the secrets of wisdom (or he just knew these secrets by intuition), and he wished God would show such secrets to Job! These secrets were double what men generally realised, but Zophar knew them! (vv.5-6). Zophar even knew that God was punishing Job less than his iniquity deserved! Who told this to Zophar? Only his own superior intellect.
ZOPHAR AFFIRMS GOD'S INSCRUTABLE GLORY (vv.7-12)
Following his unfair accusations against Job, Zophar now tells Job in effect that he is unable to discern the deep things of God. Certainly it was true that Job could not search out the depths of God's wisdom, or "find out the limits of the Almighty." Did Zophar think God has any limits? He is infinite, not limited in any way. Zophar applied his words only to Job, but they were just as applicable to Zophar too! But he thought himself so wise that he did not need to learn, as Job did. God's thoughts are higher than the heaven, deeper than Sheol (v.8). No one can know them unless God reveals them. Their height and depth are first mentioned, then their length and breadth (v.9). These things are all mentioned in Ephesians 3:18, as matters now revealed in Christ, yet still "passing knowledge," for indeed the actual glory of Christ is infinitely beyond our understanding, though revealed to us in a very real and wonderful way by the Spirit of God. We do know Him, yet at the same time realise how little we know Him.
Zophar continues to speak in verse 10, "If He pass by, and shut up, and call to judgment, who can hinder him" (JND). This may well be considered. No one can thwart the judgment of God when it comes. Of course Zophar, in speaking thus, considered that God was judging Job, which was not the case. "For He knows deceitful men; He sees wickedness also. Will He not then consider it?" (v.11). Thus Zophar implied that Job was both deceitful and wicked, and that the proof of this was present in that God had considered Job's state and was judging him for it.
"Yet a senseless man will make bold, though man be born [like] the foal of wild ass" (v.12 - JND). It is true that senseless men will boldly assert themselves, though their very nature is that of such rebellion that is evident in a wild donkey's colt. But Zophar did not mean that as a general observation; rather he considered Job as a senseless man acting stubbornly, and not really recognising the greatness of the glory of God.
ZOPHAR'S ADVICE TO JOB (vv.13-20)
Since Zophar thinks that he has established the proof of Job's guilt and has shown Job something of the greatness of God, then he proceeds to urge Job to change his ways. He does not say in what Job has been guilty, but is sure he must be guilty of something. "If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him; if iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear; because you would forget your misery, and remember it as waters that have passed away, and your life would be brighter than noonday" (vv.13-17). Zophar thought he was giving Job the remedy for his depressed condition, but his diagnosis was totally wrong and his remedy was therefore not what Job needed.
Yet he is sure that if Job would simply take his advice, the results would be of great blessing to Job. He would be secure and take rest in safety, he would lie down without fear, and many would court his favour (vv.18-19). Before Job's deep trial, many indeed had sought Job's favour, and Zophar thought that since this was not true now, the only reason could be Job's falling into sin. In fact, he implies this in adding, "But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope - loss of life!" (v.20). He is warning Job that if he does not take Zophar's advice he will not escape, but end in dreadful judgment.
JOB EMPHASISES GOD'S GREATNESS AND WISDOM (vv.1-25)
Job's reply to Zophar was understandably sarcastic, "No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!" (v.2). Zophar had implied that he had intuitive wisdom such as Job lacked, and Job rightly reproved him in saying, "But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you" (v.3). In fact, Zophar had said only what was common knowledge: everyone knew these things.
Job felt the pathos of being mocked by his friends, ridiculed, though just and blameless (v.4). He had been a lamp, giving light, but now was despised in the thoughts of these friends who were comfortably at ease, who were ready to put down those whose feet slip. He even suggests that his friends were acting like robbers who were prospering, for they were stealing away his integrity and actually provoking God while pretending to speak on God's behalf. Job was puzzled that his friends could be so secure, resting in the blessing God had provided them, while speaking falsely for God! (vv.5-6). Why did they prosper while he suffered? He proceeds then, in verse 7, to show far more than Zophar did, the greatness and wisdom of God. He appeals to creation, the beasts, the birds, the earth, the fish as witnesses of the great variety of actions of power and greatness on the part of the Creator. "The hand of the Lord has done this" (v.9).
In that hand of power is the life of every living thing, Job affirms, and the breath of all mankind, - not only his own breath, but that of his three friends also. He would not let them think of themselves as merely detached onlookers, who could judge matters without being judged themselves. With his ears he tested their words, and he tasted what was fed to him, to discover whether it was palatable or not (vv.10-11). Thus, he sets Zophar's professed wisdom aside by telling him that "wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding" (v.12).
Speaking of wisdom, however, brings Job face to face with God, who is infinite in wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding beyond all that is human. "If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt" (v.14). In fact Job had been broken down, but he did not realise that the One who broke him down could also rebuild him, though Job could not do it. If God imprisons one, man cannot release him, though God can do so. God could use waters also as He saw fit. If He withheld the water the earth would dry up: if He sent a torrent of water this could cause an overwhelming flood (v.15). These two extremes have often followed one another and men are helpless, though God does not explain why He does this.
There are various things of which Job speaks that he gives God credit for, without realising their significance as regards his own case. God had strength and prudence; the deceived and the deceiver were both under His control (v.16), "He leads counsellors away plundered, and makes fools of the judges," that is, He deprives counsellors of the value of their counsel: thus man's wisdom is brought to nothing, and the judges become foolish: man's authority becomes as useless as his wisdom. Those who have been considered dependable are deprived of speech, the ability to be of help to others, and even elders who have been recognised for their experience will find their discernment taken away (vv.17-20).
"He pours contempt on princes, and disdains the mighty" (v.21). To princes (those in the place of dignity) God sees fit to show contempt, so contrary to what they might expect. The powerful He disarms, taking their power from them. If Job had taken time to consider the significance of these things, he might not have sunk so low in his miserable state. He sees the facts, but fails to apply their lessons in his own case. He says of God, "He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light" (v.22). Actually, Job was experiencing the pangs of darkness: he himself could not uncover deep things from the darkness, nor bring light from the shadow of death, but he realised God can do this. Could He not do it in Job's case? Yes indeed, and He did so before long.
God could and did make nations great, and then as He saw fit, destroy them. He could enlarge the nations and guide them too, but then take away the understanding of the chiefs of the people, to reduce the nation to a wandering wilderness path, to grope in the dark without light, made to stagger like a drunkard (vv.23-25). Thus the nations are an object lesson for all mankind. God blesses them and they become proud of themselves, therefore they require the humbling dealings of God.
JOB DECLARES HIMSELF FULLY EQUAL TO HIS FRIENDS (vv.1-12)
Job has spoken at length of God's wisdom and power, now he tells Zophar that his eye has seen all this, his ear has heard it and understood it. What Zophar knew Job knew also: he was not inferior to his critics (vv.1-2). In fact, what Job has said proves him more knowledgeable than they, so his words in verse 2 are an understatement.
In verse 3 he infers that it was no use talking to them: he wanted to speak to the Almighty, to reason with God, who at least would not be a forger of lies, as they were. They were "worthless physicians," he said, and would be wise if they kept silent (vv.4-5). He was seeking to reason and to plead with them, but they were not listening, and instead were speaking wickedly on God's behalf, using deceit in claiming to speak for God. Job knew that God was fully aware that the charges of his friends were not true, so God was certainly not backing them up. Job knew that God was not deceitful, as his friends were proving to be, and when the time came, God would search them out and would surely rebuke them. Of course Job was wondering why God did not intervene immediately, but he asks them a pointed question, "Will not His excellence make you afraid, and the dread of Him fall upon you?" (v.11). Men should deeply fear to misrepresent God whose glory is so high above the heavens. Therefore Job likens their arguments to ashes and to clay (v.12).
JOB PLEADS FOR A LISTENING AUDIENCE (vv.13-19)
Having exposed his friends' ignorance, Job asks them to keep quiet and listen to him. Actually, he could not give them the answer to the many questions that troubled him, but he could show them that their answers were empty and wrong. At least, he wants time to speak, then "let come on me what may" (v.13), Perhaps he had the faint hope that it might be so. He asks them, "Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands?" (v.14). Did his friends consider why he would so expose himself to their ridicule and criticism? Was there not a reason for this? In fact, he declares positively that though God would slay him, yet he would trust Him. Did his trust in God indicate that he was guilty of hidden sin? No! he says, I will defend my own ways, before Him" (v.15).
Would God desert him? No! God would be his salvation. He was fully confident of this, though appearances did not persuade his friends, it was true. If one by sinning was turning away from, God, he would not have such confidence in God as Job had, "for a hypocrite could not come before Him" (v.16). Therefore Job urges his friends (or critics) to listen carefully to what he says. He had not been haphazard in preparing his case for judgment, but was fully certain his case deserved careful consideration, for he says, "I know I shall be vindicated" (v.18). Doubtless it was true he would be vindicated in the eyes of men eventually, but in the eyes of God it is a different matter, as Job acknowledges in Chapter 42:5-6, when his case was fully considered before God. Meanwhile he questions who could rightly contend with him, for his friends' contentions were empty. He felt it needful to defend himself - or perish (v.19). How different were his words when God spoke directly to him: "I lay my hand over my mouth" (ch.40:4), that is, he held his tongue.
A PRAYER OF DESPERATION (vv.20-27)
After answering his friends' accusations, Job resorts again to prayer. Was this not because he could expect no understanding from his friends? Where could he find help but in God?
He asks, "Only two things do not do to me" (v.20). If so, then Job would not try to hide from God. First, "Withdraw your hand far from me," that is, do not continue this trying affliction that Job felt he could not stand; and secondly, "let not the dread of You make me afraid" (v.21). He did not want to be terrified by the contemplation of the glory of God.
Was there not a possibility of some communication with God? Either let God call him and let Job answer, or let Job speak and God respond to him (v.22). He asks God, "How many are my iniquities and sins?" His friends had accused him of sinning, but God knew just how many were his sins. Of course it was not because of Job's sins that he was afflicted, but neither he nor his friends could think of any other reason for it. Was there some hidden guilt that Job was not aware of? Then let God reveal this to Job.
The fact that God did not respond seemed to Job that God considered Job to be His enemy (v.24). He compared himself to a leaf or to dry stubble, not worth any attention. Why would God frighten an object so insignificant? He felt that God was writing bitter things against Him - not literally, but at least in effect, and that he was bringing up the sins of Job's youth, for his more recent sins would not be as flagrant as those of his youth (v.26). Verse 27 intimates that God was confining Job to painful limitations. Verse 28 is true concerning all mankind, but Job was thinking of himself as in a state of decay and complaining about it. But sin is inherent in our nature received from Adam, and we cannot escape the resulting decay, which ends in death.
MAN'S DECAY AND DEATH (vv.1-12)
What Job had said in Chapter 3:28 he expands upon in these verses, giving a vivid description of the evanescent character of man's life on earth. This is generally true of all mankind, though men do everything in their power to alleviate this condition. "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble" (v.1) Though Job himself lived 140 years after his bitter experience, yet when it was finished, it was only "few days." Like a flower, man comes forth and fades away. Like a shadow he does not continue (v.2). In view of this brevity of life, Job wondered why God troubles Himself to bring him to judgment, as he thought God was doing.
"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one! This is impossible for any human being. Yet God is able to purify man's hearts, cleansing them through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn.1:7), by faith (Rom.3:25). But this is found only in the New Testament, so Job did not understand such a marvellous gospel.
He recognises that God has determined the length of a man's life, and man cannot overstep his limits. But why did Job not at this time fully submit to the superior work of God, and not chafe at the limits God had placed him under? (v.5). "Look away from him that he may rest," Job says. Did he mean he wanted God to relax the limits, so he could rest comfortably? For he was only like a hired man: could he not finish his day's work in peace?
In verses 7-10 Job contrasts himself to a tree, which can sprout again after being cut down. This is often seen, that a new tree begins to grow out of the stump of one cut down. Though the stump is dead, yet with moisture a new tree will sprout. "But man dies and is laid away Indeed he breathes his last and where is he?" (v.10). However, the fact is that, though man's body is totally decayed in the grave, yet the new sprouting of a tree is a comparison, not a contrast to the eventual "sprouting" of a new body from the old. Man's resurrection is longer delayed, but it is just as certain. In fact, Job knew this, as he declares in Chapter 19:26, but in Chapter 14 he is too concerned about the immediate future to take into proper consideration the distant future.
In verses 11-12 he likens man's death to water evaporating from the sea or a river becoming dried up. "So man lies down, and does not rise till the heavens are no more." This is an exaggeration because the time seemed so long to Job, as though death was the end of everything.
ANOTHER PLEA FOR DEATH (vv.13-17)
Though he has inferred that death is the end of everything, Job pleads with God that he might die, thinking that he might thus be hidden until God's anger had subsided. For he thought that his troubles stemmed from the wrath of God (v.13). In this he was totally mistaken. If only God would set a definite time where He might relax His trying dealings with Job, then Job would understand. But if he died, would he live again? (v.14). We have seen that he answered this himself in Chapter 19:26-27, but his words show the state of confusion he was in, which caused him to often speak inconsistently.
He says, "All the days of my hard service I will wait till my change comes," that is, wait for death - but not wait patiently! Meanwhile God was numbering Job's steps, but Job did not want Him to watch over his sins, which he considered "sealed up in a bag," not apparent, only needing covering by God Himself, for he did rightly think God could do this.
JOB THINKS GOD PREVAILS AGAINST MAN (vv.18-22)
Not only does Job recognise that man dies, but in this life Job saw the evidence of God's power being used to break man down to the dust. Is this what God thinks of His creation? Does He take pleasure in demolishing the work of His hands? "As a mountain falls and crumbles away, and as a rock is moved from its place; as water wears away stones, and as torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so You destroy the hope of man." Why is God not content with letting man die, rather than to make him suffer before death?
Job sees only power on God's side, God prevailing against man without man having any chance of recovery: man passes on. God changes His countenance (from pleasant to depressing) and sends man away (v.20), left alone to wander in misery Yet in reality God was dealing in pure love toward Job, not merely in power. Whether man's sons come to honour or whether they are brought low, the father is so reduced as not to perceive it (v.21). Of course, before this Job's sons had all been killed, but he thinks of this situation as a general truth, that man can find no pleasure in his family, no more than in himself. Rather, his flesh will be in pain and his soul will mourn (v.22). How painful and dismal is the picture he portrays!
ELIPHAZ CLAIMS JOB CONDEMNS HIMSELF (vv.1-6)
This response of Eliphaz lacks the measure of self-restraint he had shown in his first address. He had first at least spoken with a measure of consideration for Job, but now he directly accuses him of gross sin and hypocrisy. He says in effect, if Job considered himself wise, why did he speak with empty knowledge, his words like the east wind? Eliphaz does not directly answer what Job has said, but accuses him of unprofitable talk and speeches that can do no good (vv.2-3). He says, "You cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God." But Job's words showed very definite fear and he had actually prayed to God in the presence of his friends. What was Eliphaz talking about?
He tells Job that his own iniquity leads him to speak as he does and that Job chose cunningly devised words to cover up his sin (v.5). Plainly, Eliphaz was strongly condemning Job, but he says that was not condemning him, but that Job's own words condemned him. He does not tell Job what words actually condemned him, but used this sweeping accusation to nullify all that Job had said. Of course this was grossly unfair, but he smugly insists, "Your own lips testify against you" (v.6).
DID JOB THINK HIMSELF WISER THAN OTHERS? (vv.7-13)
In this accusation of Eliphaz, suggesting that Job inferred that he was wiser than all others, Eliphaz is again absolutely unfair. Zophar had told Job, "O that God would speak and open his lips against you, that He would show you the secrets of wisdom" (ch.11:5-6). He inferred that he knew the secrets of wisdom, and Job did not. Job had answered this, "No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you" and he had protested, not that he was wiser than his friends, but that "I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you" (ch.12:2-3).
Therefore it was dishonest of Eliphaz to ask him, "Are you the first man who was born? or were you made before the hills? Have you heard the counsel of God? Do you limit wisdom to yourself?" (vv.7-8). Job had asked his friends virtually the same question that Eliphaz asks in verse 9, "What do you know that we do not know? He had said, "What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you" (ch.13:2), but Eliphaz accused him of claiming to be superior to them. Eliphaz ought to have reproved Zophar for assuming that he knew the secrets of wisdom and that Job did not, but the arguments of Eliphaz only exposed his partiality.
He proceeds also to imply that he and his friends were actually wiser than Job, for he tells Job, "Both the grey-haired and the aged are among us, much older than your father" (v.10). He had appealed to tradition before: now he says that not only tradition, but those who originated tradition, were on the side of these three men!
What does Eliphaz mean by asking, "Are the consolations of God too small for you, and the word spoken gently with you?" (v.11). No doubt he meant that he and his friends had brought the consolations of God to Job, and Job did not appreciate such help. Also, he says that they had spoken the word gently to Job. Why did Job not respond to this gentleness? Of course Job did not think their words were gentle, nor did he consider that they were showing him "the consolations of God." No wonder Job said in Chapter 16:2, "miserable comforters are you all!"
Eliphaz considered that Job's heart was carrying him away and he was turning his spirit against God (vv.12-13). Why? Because his spirit was turned against what his friends were saying, and Eliphaz thought they were speaking for God. He could strongly reprove Job for his letting such words as Job spoke ever come forth from his mouth. But Eliphaz did not stop to consider that he needed to restrain such words as came from his own mouth.
GOD'S HOLINESS IN CONTRAST TO MEN (vv.14-16)
There is excellent truth in these verses, if Eliphaz would apply it as positively to himself as to Job, but he wanted to convict Job by the truth he expressed rather than take it seriously to his own heart. In any absolute sense, no man is pure or righteous, as verse 14 implies. But Eliphaz wanted Job to therefore confess to sins that Job had not actually committed. Yet if we think of Job as compared to other men, God had said that Job was the most righteous man on earth.
Eliphaz continues, "If God puts no trust in His saints (evidently angels), and the heavens are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water!" (vv.15-16). From God's viewpoint this too is true, but would Eliphaz have appreciated it if Job called him "abominable and filthy?" Thus Eliphaz was seeking to use a general truth to convict Job of worse guilt than was actually true of Job.
THE STUBBORNNESS OF WICKED MEN (vv.17-26)
Though Eliphaz had shown mankind generally to be "abominable and filthy," now he dwells on the character and actions of wicked men, so that he does make a distinction between the wicked and the righteous, but he wants to compare Job to the wicked man. "I will tell you, hear me," he says, implying that this was the instruction Job needed. For he was depending on what wise men had told, receiving it from their fathers, showing again that tradition was most important to Eliphaz. He says, "No alien passed among them," that is, that there were none to disagree with their conclusions.
Thus tradition said, "The wicked man writhes with pain all his days" (v.20). Of course Job was writhing with pain, so this was another cruel thrust at Job. "And the number of years is hidden from the oppressor." Did he mean that Job did not know for how many years he would writhe in pain because he was guilty of being an oppressor? "In prosperity the destroyer comes upon him" (v.21). It was when Job was enjoying prosperity that trouble came suddenly to him, therefore Eliphaz concluded that Job must be a wicked man, for he did not stop to consider that others beside wicked men had trouble too. And because Job had expressed himself as despairing of any hope of returning from the dark state into which he had come, Eliphaz took advantage of this to further convict Job (v.22).
He speaks of the wicked wandering in search of bread, that is, some return to a former state. "Trouble and anguish make him afraid" (v.24). Therefore since Job admitted he was afraid because of his great suffering, Eliphaz considered this another proof of Job's wickedness. "He stretches out his hand against God, and acts defiantly against the Almighty, running stubbornly against Him" (vv.25-26). These were things that Eliphaz saw in Job, so that he felt himself right in comparing Job to wicked men. Certainly in all this Eliphaz showed painful lack of discernment and unfeeling cruelty.
THE RECOMPENSE OF THE WICKED (vv.27-35)
But now Eliphaz proceeds to warn Job as to what the wicked can expect to reap as reward for their wickedness. Though he built himself up with great prosperity, he would dwell in desolate cities, in houses that were coming to ruin (vv.27-28). His riches would dissipate (v.29). Darkness would overcome him, fire would dry up his branches. As he had lived in futile pursuits, futility would be his reward (vv.30-31). This would be accomplished before he had time to enjoy life (v.32). He may have grapes on his vine, but not ripe, cast off before being of any use. Blossoms on his olive tree, showing promise of fruit, would also be cast off before fruit came. "The company of hypocrites will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of bribery" (v.34). Eliphaz had before implied that Job was a hypocrite (vv.5-6), now he suggests that Job might be guilty of bribery too. At any rate, all that the wicked conceive is trouble, and this ends in futility (v.35). This is what he considered Job's end would be!
JOB REPROVES THEIR HEARTLESSNESS (vv.1-5)
Eliphaz had claimed to be giving Job "the consolations of God," and this moves Job to reply bitterly, "Miserable comforters are you all!" (v.2). Instead of comfort, they had given heartless accusations, which Job terms "words of wind." He says that if they were in his place, he could heap up words against them in similar cruel accusation, but he would not do so: he would use his words to strengthen and encourage them in order to give them some relief. He longed for this himself, but they had nothing for him.
JOB FEELS GOD HAS MOVED MEN TO PERSECUTE HIM (vv.6-14)
Whether Job spoke or remained silent, he found no relief. He feels that God has worn him out by making all his company (his friends) desolate of any help, and thus Job was shrivelled up. In verse 9 it may be doubtful that he is referring directly to God, for in verse 10 he uses the plural "they" three times. But he evidently thought God was practically influencing others to tear Job in His wrath. Did he think God was responsible for the hatred of man? In fact, we know that God would not approve of such persecutions that Job lists in verses 9 and 10, but his friends were claiming to be speaking for God!
Because Job had found no help or encouragement from his three friends, but rather the opposite, he pathetically declares, "God has delivered me up to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked" (v.11). Just as Eliphaz had exaggerated Job's condition by calling him wicked, so Job exaggerates by referring to his friends as wicked. He felt that God was taking sides with the ungodly against him. A resisting attitude will always have wrong thoughts about God and His ways, whereas a submissive attitude will find its thoughts wonderfully corrected.
Still, it is commendable that Job recognised that in the final analysis he was dealing with God, so that he looks beyond his friends to see that God was behind all that was coming upon him. This shows he was a true believer, though he made deductions that were wrong, for he was virtually blaming God as though God was doing wrong. "I was at ease," he says, "but He has shattered me; He also takes me by the neck and shakes me to pieces. He has set me up for His target, His archers surround me. He pierces my heart and does not pity, He pours out my gall on the ground. He breaks me with wound upon wound; He runs at me like a warrior" (vv.12-14).
If Job had only realised that it was because of God's pure love to him that He allowed such things to try him, how different would his attitude have been! Eventually he was brought to such a conclusion, however, so that the end of the history is bright with God's praise and Job's great blessing.
JOB LOOKS TO HEAVEN FOR HELP (vv.15-22)
Job now draws attention to the extreme misery he was passing through, concerning which Zophar had callously said Job's suffering was less than he deserved. "I have sewn sackcloth over my skin, and laid my head in the dust, my face is flushed from weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death" (vv.15-16). If he had been guilty of violence and hypocrisy, this would be understandable, but he insists that no violence was in his hands and his prayer was pure.
He calls to the earth not to cover his blood, that is, not to cover up the fact of his undeserved suffering; and not to let his cry have a resting place, apparently that his cry should be heard rather than silenced. For he had confidence that the witness of his innocence was in heaven, though his friends on earth had refused it and scorned him (vv.18-20).
"Oh that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbour!" (v.21). We today know the wonderful answer to this in the New Testament. "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn.2: 1). The Lord Jesus does indeed plead for us before the Father's face, a true and gracious Intercessor whose petitions the Father will never deny.
Even in Job's day, his faith could have anticipated this if only he had a submissive spirit. However, in a state of despondency he says, "For when a few years are finished I shall go the way of no return" (v.22). He therefore expected to live a few years more, but thought of those years only as continuing his present misery, and says nothing of the bright prospect of eternity, which at least today should be a matter deeply precious to a believing heart, - that is, eternal glory and eternal blessing with Christ. How marvellous is the advantage the children of God have today over those of Old Testament days!
Job has much more to say than his friends had, and we may marvel at the detailed way in which he describes his present condition in contrast to what he had once enjoyed. "My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me" (v.1). Was it true that mockers were with him? They might think they were comforters, but were they not mocking? (v.2).
Job considered himself so despised that no one would even shake hands with him, and he thought that God had hidden their heart from understanding (vv.3-4). In verse 5 he certainly was not accusing his friends of flattering him, but did he mean that he would not dare to flatter them?
But rather than being flattered by people, Job now thought that God had made him a byword of the people (v.6), one in whose face men would spit. If this was not literally true, it was true figuratively. His sorrow had affected his eyesight and he felt his bodily members were like shadows. (v.7). If men were upright they would be astonished at Job's sufferings, but his friends showed no such astonishment. In fact Job, knowing himself innocent of the charges against him, was stirred up against the hypocrisy of his friends, and Job would hold to his way in spite of the opposition. As he says, "he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger" (v.9). This is true, but at the time did Job feet stronger and stronger? Thank God his experience would certainly end in his being strengthened.
In verse 10 Job pleads with his friends to come back again, that is, no doubt, to come back to a sensible position of actually being comforters, for he had found none of the three to be wise men. (v.11). It seemed to him his life was finished, and there was nothing to live for. In verse 12 it seems he refers to his friends as changing the night into day, that is, regarding Job's distressing night time experiences as light enough for them to understand that his troubles were because of his sin.
BILDAD'S STRONG REPROOF (vv.1-3)
Bildad did not learn from Job's words to be a little more considerate than before, but shows only more strong opposition, reproving Job unjustly. He considered Job's words as being without understanding and advised him to "gain understanding" so that his friends would be more free to speak to him. He asks, "Why are we counted as beasts and regarded as stupid in your sight?" (v.3). No doubt if Bildad had not acted like a beast, Job would not have spoken to him as he did. Yet Job had not accused them of being stupid, but had rather protested that he was not inferior to them, and that he did not find a wise man among them (ch.12:2; 17:10). Why did Bildad not at least modify his unfair attitude?
BILDAD LIKENS JOB TO A WICKED MAN (vv.4-7)
Job had spoken of others making him suffer and God apparently doing so too. But Bildad tells him that he tears himself in his anger, in other words, that Job was causing himself all his trouble. Does Job expect the earth or the rocks to yield to his will? This was an exaggeration of what Bildad thought he perceived in Job's attitude. In verse 5 he refers back to Job's claim that his friends were changing the night into day, saying the light is near in the face of darkness (ch.17:12). "The light of the wicked indeed goes out," Bildad says, implying that since Job had no clear light in the darkness of his experience, then Job must be wicked.
Therefore he enlarges on the condition of the wicked, words true enough, but not applicable to Job as though he were wicked. What light the wicked man has is only darkness, and God will see that his lamp is totally put out (v.6). His life will be shortened and his own counsel leads to his downfall (v.7). This graphic description of the expectation of the wicked is right and good, but is no help to Job.
THE WICKED, UNWATCHFUL, ARE SNARED (vv.8-11)
In these verses Bildad tells Job that the wicked, being unaware of danger because of ignorance, are easily snared by evil. The snare may be a noose hidden on the ground, perhaps covered by leaves, but drawn when one walks into it. Bildad thought that because Job had not expected the evil that came to him, therefore he had not watched against being snared, and had walked into the snare. Of course this was not the case with Job, though it is commonly true of the wicked.
RESULTING DISEASE AND DEATH (vv.12-15)
Bildad goes farther here to speak of the disease that overtakes the one who is snared. His words are really a description of what Job was suffering at the time, but he embellishes this with additional fearsome afflictions intended to frighten the poor sufferer. His strength is reduced to nothing and his destruction is imminent. Disease breaks out in patches of his skin, and "the king of terrors" (death) is set as the prospect before his eyes. Others who are not of his family will take over his dwelling, scattering brimstone on it, leaving it unfit for him. Everything Bildad said may not have been literally true of Job, but it was close enough that Job knew Bildad was thrusting at him.
ROOT AND BRANCH DRIED UP (vv.16-19)
Thus, disease will lead to complete stagnation, both root and branch dried up and the very memory of the person perishing from the earth. Nothing is left, no name among those who are renowned, but practically driven from light to darkness, chased out of the world with no children to carry on his name. How desolate a picture! It is true of the wicked, and since all Job's children had been killed, then Bildad used this as a cruel thrust at Job as evidence that he must be wicked. At the time of course Job had no children to carry on his name; but later on he did have as many children as he had before! (Ch.42:13). Also Bildad intimated that Job would have no name among those who are renowned; but the name of Job has been one of remarkable renown for centuries since that time. As to his possessions too Job was given twice as much as he had before the dreadful experience he was given to bear (Ch.42: 10). Bildad did not consider the possibility of the whole picture changing completely, as did happen before too long.
THE END OF MAN'S DAY (vv.20-21).
Finally Bildad speaks of people both from the west and the east witnessing in astonished fear the bitter end of the wicked (v.20). He does not even think of a way out for Job, but places him alongside of the wicked who dwell in fear, as all the evidence shows. "This is the place of him who does not know God," he says. He ignores the fact that Job had spoken much of God and His ways, for he considered that Job's words have been hypocritical. When God eventually intervened in this matter, how totally astonished Bildad himself must have been, to witness in Job, not "the bitter end of the wicked," but the wonderful end of an honourable believer who had suffered for a while and who learned patience in his suffering. But that patience was not learned through the help of his friends, rather through the wise dealings of the Lord with him.
JOB'S REPLY TO BILDAD (vv.1-6).
Though Job did not lose his temper at the unjust accusations of Bildad, he shows here that the reproaches of his friends have struck deeply into his soul. "How long will you torment my soul, and break me in pieces with words?" (v.2). He is appealing to the fact that the best he can say of their words is that they are unfair. Ten times they had reproached him. Should they not be ashamed that they had actually wronged him? They had accused him of evil without knowing anything on his part that was evil. If he had erred, therefore, his error was only known to himself. They were only making thrusts in the dark.
They pleaded the fact that Job was disgraced as evidence of guilt on his part, so that they felt themselves secure in taking an exalted position over him (v.5). But he insists that God has wronged him and virtually bound him in a net (v.6). This is strong language against God, but he felt that his troubles were not deserved, and since he had the same misconception as his friends that God meted out suffering according to man's measure of guilt, he concluded that in his case God had been unfair
JOB FEELS GOD IS AGAINST HIM (vv.7-11)
God does not deal with man on a legal basis, as men generally think; thus Job speaks of crying out of wrong and being ignored by God. Where was the justice in this? (v.7). Job felt so constricted as to be a virtual prisoner unable to find any way out, with darkness hedging him in (v.8). His prosperity and dignity had been stripped from him, and he says God has broken him down on every side, leaving him not even an avenue of hope (vv.9-10).
Thus, he considers he is the subject of God's bitter anger and that God counts him as His enemy (v.11). How totally wrong Job was in all this. But when one is bound up in "self" he will always think of God in this accusatory way. Yet in all the trouble Job was experiencing, God was acting toward him in genuine love and compassion. At the moment Job could not see this, as later he would.
PEOPLE ALSO AGAINST JOB (vv.12-20)
Since people generally live by a legal principle, it is understandable that they had the same attitude toward Job as did his friends. But Job counted them as God's troops come together, "building roads" against him. Of course Job's surmise was wrong. God did not move these people against him, though no doubt Satan did so. Job's brothers had removed themselves from him, and Job blamed God for this. His acquaintances, relatives and close friends had distanced themselves from him (vv.12-14). Even those living in his own house, including maid servants, acted toward him as though he had been a stranger, a foreigner not to be considered (v.15).
At least Job's three friends did sit with him, and listened to him, but his servants would not even answer when he called. His breath was offensive to his wife, which was no doubt literally true. His wife was evidently no help to him in his sufferings (vv.16-17). Also he says, "I am repulsive to the children of my own body Even young children despise me." Of course he was not speaking of his sons and daughters, who had before been taken in death, so it is likely his grandchildren of whom he speaks. We can understand what children's feelings would be in seeing him sitting in an ash heap covered with sore boils, yet Job felt the fact of their recoiling from him in contrast to their former respect for him. But if he arose, he said, they would speak against him. At least, however they felt, even young children should not be so callous as to speak against a sufferer.
"All my close friends abhor me, and those whom I love have turned against me." Certainly anyone who has experienced such rejection cannot but feel the pain of it, yet Job's friends seem not to have even considered how deeply Job must be affected. His body must have been emaciated - his bones clinging to his flesh - and he feels he has barely escaped death, as by the skin of his teeth, - a metaphor indicating the finest margin.
JOB'S PLEA FOR PITY (vv.21-24)
If no one else will have pity on Job, at least he feels that his friends who have come to comfort him should manifest some measure of pity rather than of accusation. He pleads with them therefore, for as he says, "the hand of God has struck me." Should they add to his suffering, thinking it right to do so because God had made him suffer? He felt God was persecuting him, which was not true, but it was true that his friends were persecuting him, being not satisfied that his flesh had suffered enough.
At this point Job expresses his longing that his words were indelibly written (vv.23-24), for he was sure he was speaking truthfully. In fact, what he has said is inscribed in the Word of God for eternity, more lasting than if engraved in rock with an iron pen with lead inserted in the letters. Job however will not for eternity consider all those words as true, for after this he learned that God was indeed not a persecutor, but One who in everything sought the greatest good of his servant.
FAITH'S BEAUTIFUL TRIUMPH (vv.25-27)
In the midst of Job's deep depression it is wonderful to hear him speak so positively in these three verses, "I know that my Redeemer lives." Thus his faith is seen to surmount his feelings, which he had allowed to discourage him. Notice, he says "my Redeemer." The Lord would therefore certainly redeem him from all the adversities he was experiencing. How could he then have spoken so critically of the Lord before? But such is the inconsistency of our fleshly nature. Also, "He shall stand at last on the earth." Thus Job becomes a prophet, for this could have been revealed to him only by the Lord Himself. We know it is true because scripture subsequent to Job has revealed it, but it appears that God virtually put these words into Job's lips for his own encouragement. Of course it was true when the Lord Jesus came by way of the virgin Mary, and again it will be true when He returns in glory (Zech.14:4).
But more than this, Job says, "And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God" (v.26). How amazing it is that Job could say this. Only by divine revelation could he know this, for he recognised that though he was destroyed by death, yet in his flesh he would see God. This certainly means resurrection. Also, the only way he (or anyone) will see God is in the person of the Lord Jesus (Jn.1:18).
He adds, "Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another" (v.27), that is, it would not be by proxy, but a personal, vital matter. No wonder he is moved to say, "How my heart yearns within me!" This should have been enough to lift him high above the trauma of his bitter experiences, and perhaps for the moment he was lifted up, but his history at this time was very generally a conflict between faith and feelings.
A CLOSING APPEAL (vv.28-25)
In verses 28 and 29 Job returns to admonish his friends, whom he considered were seeking means or words to persecute him, because they thought the root of Job's troubles was really in himself. But he tells them to be afraid in having such an attitude, afraid of a punishing sword. For God's wrath would bring such punishment, that they might know there is a judgment. Such words from Job ought to have made his friends to consider seriously at least whether or not they might be persuaded by them.
ZOPHAR EXPOUNDS ON THE WICKED MAN
THE WICKED MAN'S BRIEF TRIUMPH (vv.1-5)
Zophar does not even consider the possibility that Job is not wicked, but again strongly condemns the wicked, making it evident that he is really speaking of Job. He was evidently greatly stirred, not by the Spirit of God, but by his own misguided thoughts (v.2). Job had asked for some pity, but Zophar thinks he only deserves the opposite. He had heard Job's rebuke that was a reproach to Zophar, but makes it clear that he will accept no rebuke. He fights back with "the spirit of his understanding" (v.3), not by the Spirit of God.
Did Job not know that "he triumphing of the wicked is short?" (vv.4-5). Of course Job knew this, but Zophar was thinking of Job's earlier history as the triumphing of the wicked, now cut short by his adversity. His joy being cut short was proof to Zophar that Job was a hypocrite. However, was the triumphing of the wicked always as short as Zophar implied? No. Asaph speaks of this in Psalm 73 when he "saw the prosperity of the wicked" (v.3). They might go through life with no real adversity, but their triumph is cut short at least when they die, as Asaph learned in the sanctuary, as he says, "I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end" (Ps. 73:17).
THE WICKED SOON CUT OFF (vv.6-11)
"Though his haughtiness mounts up to the heavens, and his head reaches to the clouds, yet he will perish forever like his own refuse" (vv.6-7). These words were cruelly unfair to Job. While he was remiss in the way he spoke of God, yet Job's words cannot be rightly considered haughty. Zophar speaks as though Job's haughtiness was excessively bad, and goes so far as to predict that Job would perish forever! Of course this was absolutely false as to Job, though it is true of the wicked.
The following verses (8-9) speak of people missing the wicked man, asking where he is, for as a dream he goes as quickly as he comes. Why "his children seek the favour of the poor" may not be too easily understood, and there is some question as to the translation, "his hands restore his wealth." But his bones that were once full of fruitful strength will be reduced to the dust of death (v.11).
POISONED WITH HIS OWN VENOM (vv.12-16)
Zophar is remarkably graphic, and correct, in describing the plight of the wicked man. This section shows that man's wickedness comes back upon himself. Evil may be sweet in his mouth, virtually hiding it under his tongue, willing to speak wickedness instead of judging it and forsaking it (vv.12-13). He keeps it in his mouth and soon swallows it, and his stomach turns sour (v.14). What he swallows becomes as cobra venom.
Zophar continues his graphic description of the wicked man, saying that he swallows down his criminally obtained riches, but vomits them up again (v.15). He is like a drunkard with delirium tremens. At first when he drinks, the pleasure of it deceives him, and his pleasure soon turns to bitterness. He has himself been guilty of sucking the poison of cobras, and the results of this can be only his own fault: he destroys himself (v.16).
NO REFUGE IN PAST PROSPERITY (vv.17-20)
Thus, the wicked will not see what he has in the past depended on, "the rivers flowing with honey and cream." That for which he laboured will not sustain him now (v.18), and from the proceeds of his past business he will get no resulting enjoyment. The reason for this Zophar considers to be that "he has oppressed and forsaken the poor, he has violently seized a house which he did not build" (v.19). Of course this may be true of some wicked men, but to charge Job with such crime was itself a repulsive crime.
"Because he knows no quietness in his heart, he will not save anything he desires." It is true that God will allow no quietness in the heart of a wicked man; but Job did not enjoy quietness in his heart because of his sufferings. Zophar knew this and supposed Job was therefore wicked. Would Job then save nothing he desired? Thus Zophar would discourage Job from ever expecting any good to come out of his afflictions. How little he knew the heart of God, who moved Paul at a later date to write, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
Not only could a wicked man find his own wickedness recoiling on him, and find no help in his past experiences, but he could also expect harsh retribution from the hand of God. "Nothing is left for him to eat," Zophar says; his prosperity will not last, his self-sufficiency will only serve to mock him, and misery would come on him from every hand (vv.21-22). Though he intends to fill his stomach in self-satisfaction, God would cast on him the fury of His wrath and rain His anger on him while he is eating (v.23). Job felt that this was practically what God was doing to him, and Zophar seemed glad to "rub it in," to make Job all the more miserable. But this could not persuade Job that he was wicked, for he knew such accusations against him were false.
"He will flee from the iron weapon" (v.24). This may remind us of Joseph, who "was laid in irons" (Ps. 105:18), the iron speaking of hard, unyielding circumstances, that in Joseph's case found him calmly submissive, but caused Job to want to flee, as with most of us, we want to avoid the hardness of trials. One might ask, would Zophar feel submissive if an iron weapon threatened him? or would he want to flee from it? But he was not in the same predicament as Job, and could speak quite confidently about others. "A bronze bow will pierce him through," evidently speaking of the arrow from the bow. Thus he is pierced through with terror.
GOD'S WRATH WITH NO ALLEVIATION (vv.26-29)
This section emphasises more strongly Zophar's words of the previous section, declaring the total, unmitigated wrath of God toward a wicked man. "Total darkness is reserved for his treasures" (v.26). Actually total darkness will be the case for all who reject the grace of God in Christ Jesus, "the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 13). But Job had said, "In my flesh I shall see God" (ch.19:26): he certainly did not expect the blackness of darkness forever. Nor would the fire of hell consume him, as the wicked will experience. It is true enough that the heavens would reveal the iniquity of the wicked, and even the earth would rise up against him. All that he has gained on earth will depart, nothing left to show for his life here, in the day of God's wrath (vv.27-28). Thus Zophar ends his discourse, "This is the portion from God for a wicked man, the heritage appointed to him by God" (v.29). There was a good measure of truth in what he said, but his inferring that Job was identified with such a class of evil-doers was not only unfair; it was inexcusably false.
From this time on Zophar had nothing more to say, though both Eliphaz and Bildad responded again to Job's strong protests, Eliphaz rather briefly, and Bildad much more briefly. Then the whole field was left to Job, whose closing arguments occupied nine Chapters, and left his friends with nothing in the way of response. Very likely Eliphaz was the eldest of these friends, and Zophar the youngest, for Eliphaz appears to have had more experience, and experience that should have given him more understanding of Job's actual condition and needs. Zophar however, as is often the case with young and inexperienced men, assumed that he had more discernment than his elders, particularly Job, who was no doubt much older than he, but whom he did not hesitate to castigate without proper reason. Eliphaz had at least at first shown some consideration of Job, and when he witnessed the inconsiderate viciousness of Zophar, one would think he would at least have cautioned the younger man against excessive speech. But they were sadly united in their opposition to Job.
JOB SILENCES ZOPHAR (vv.1-34).
The callous cruelty of Zophar's speech would surely cause some men to be bitterly angry, but while Job was incensed by such treatment, he did not lose his temper. He was well in control of himself in spite of so deeply feeling the anguish of his sufferings as well as the unfeeling criticism of his friends. After Job's speaking in this Chapter, Zophar has nothing more to say.
THE SOLEMNITY OF DEALING WITH GOD (vv.1-16)
Rather than replying in the same controversial spirit that his friends had used, Job calmly appeals to them to consider carefully what he is saying. The fact that he controlled himself as he did ought to have impressed them sufficiently to at least give him some serious consideration. He asked them to bear with him in his speaking to them, and after he has had his say, to continue their mocking (vv.2-3). He had little hope that they would change their minds, no matter how solemnly he speaks.
He asks them, "Is my complaint against man?" Actually, his complaint was against the way God was dealing with him. But if they thought it was against man, then why should he not be impatient? (v.4). If it were men who were causing his suffering he would have had plenty of reason to complain. But it was God who was dealing with him. Were they really considering this fact? "Look at me," he says, "and be astonished, put your hand over your mouth" (v.5). They might well keep quiet, for they were not answering for God, the God who had allowed (or caused) him to be terrified and trembling (v.6). If they had been really concerned for Job, could they not have prayed to God as to how to be of help to the poor sufferer? Probably they never thought of praying for him because they were sure they had the right answers for God without need of prayer.
WHY DO THE WICKED PROSPER? (vv.7-16)
Zophar had spoken of the wicked being cut off, but Job has questions now that Zophar does not even attempt to answer. Sometimes wicked men are cut off, but some wicked men live and become old and become mighty in power above others (v.7). Why? Their children often get along well with hardly a setback (v.8). They seem to have nothing to fear and the discipline of God's government seems not to apply to them (v.9). "Their bull breeds without failure; their cow calves without miscarriage" (v.10), while often the righteous find just the opposite experience. Their children enjoy life with its music and dancing, spending their days in wealth, "and in a moment go down to the grave" (vv.11-12). In other words, they know nothing of the painful experiences of Job all through their life, then die without suffering. Asaph observed this also, as he records in Psalm 73:3-9, and added in verses 16-17, "It was too painful for me - until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end." He learned that God's accounts are not settled in this life: there is a future to be considered.
At present, such wicked men can boldly 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?" (vv.14-15). Can we imagine that God is indulgent with such an attitude? Certainly not! He shows marvellous patience, but this does not mean indifference. Those who defy God are in a far more dangerous condition that they realise, and future judgment is infinitely more terrible than Job's few years of suffering. They consider they have no profit in praying to God. Such is the self-centred pride of man! Their object is present advantage, but in ignorance they do not realise that even in this life they may find great profit in depending on God's grace.
They may think their prosperity is in their own hands, that they have only themselves to thank for this. How false indeed! God is the Giver of every temporal thing as well as spiritual. But men do not give God the credit due to Him (v.16). No wonder Job says, "The counsel of the wicked is far from me."
THE CHILDREN OF THE WICKED (vv.17-21)
Job asks, "How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?" It is certainly not always the case in this life, in fact it is not often the case (v.17). Sometimes, in an aggravated case, destruction might overtake them, but not often. They may be like straw or chaff before the wind, and therefore carried away eventually by death, but present judgment does not seem to be often carried out (v.18). It may be rightly said, however, that "God lays up one's iniquity for his children," that is, that the children may afterward suffer for their fathers' sins, as Exodus 34:7 indicates, speaking of God "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation." This is certainly a warning to parents that their children will suffer the consequences of their parents' wickedness. God knows how to mete out recompense in an appropriate way (v.19).
Eventually the eyes of the wicked will see his own destruction, and he will drink the wrath of God, but it is a sad comment, "what does he care about his household after him?" Such is the callous selfishness always attending a course of wickedness. Though the number of his months is cut in half, this makes no difference to him (v.21).
CONTRARY EXPERIENCES (vv.22-26)
How foolish one is to suppose that he can teach God knowledge (v.22), since He judges those on high just as He does the lowest. Among the wicked there is such disparity that it is folly to think of judging by their experiences. Why? Because "one dies in his full strength, being wholly at rest and secure" (v.23). His possessions are kept intact and his health remains good until he dies (v.24). On the other hand, another wicked man dies in bitterness, his entire life having been deeply unpleasant. At the end "they lie down alike in the dust," that is, the end of the one is the same as the other, though their lives on earth were contrary. Who can possibly answer why? Zophar thought he had the answer to Job's troubles, but he had not considered this disparity with which Job faced him. Certainly the answer to all such questions must remain until after death.
JOB CHALLENGES HIS FRIENDS (vv.27-31)
Job strongly takes the offensive in this section. He discerns the schemes by which his friends would wrong him (v.27). For they asked, "where is the house of the prince?" - as much as to say that a person of princely character would not be reduced to dwell in the misery that Job was bearing (v.28). They thought that the dwelling place of the wicked corresponded to Job's circumstances. Had they not asked those who travelled the road of varied and contrary circumstances what was the reason for their disparity? (v.29).
Then Job speaks of what his friends had entirely missed, that is, the judgment of the future. "For the wicked are spared for the day of doom" (v.30). "Spared" is the proper translation here, indicating that God now spares them trouble in view of a later "day of doom." Though allowed to hide from present recompense, they will be brought out in the day of God's wrath.
Job then asks, "Who condemns his way to his face? and who repays him for what he has done?" (v.32). Job's friends were condemning him to his face, but there is only one answer to the two questions he asks. Only God has the right to condemn. Only God will recompense man's sin.
THE END IN DEATH (vv.32-33)
At least in death the end of a wicked man's prosperity is reached: he is brought down to the grave (v.32). His burial may be with a vigil and outward display of great honour. Large numbers may follow his coffin to the grave with such pomp and ceremony that is really only a mockery since he has actually "died without mercy. "
HIS CONCLUSION (v.34)
Job's friends certainly did not think that Job's end would be with such fanfare, but many of the wicked would end in this way. Therefore Job could rightly ask them, "How then can you comfort me with empty words, since falsehood remains in your answers?" They had compared Job to the wicked, but not to the wicked who prospered in the world: the fact of the wicked prospering they had not even considered.
At this point Job has clearly won the argument, so that the replies of Eliphaz and Bildad, while couched in impressive language, are practically empty. Eliphaz is totally unfair in his response, and Bildad's response is both brief and weak. Zophar is silenced, while Job afterward speaks with unabated vigour for six Chapters.
THE IRRITABLE REPLY OF ELIPHAZ
JOB'S SIN EXPOSED BEFORE GOD (vv.1-8)
Eliphaz considered that he was representing God in speaking, and exposing what he imagined were the sins of Job. He first asks a question that it is well worth considering, "Can a man be profitable to God, though he who is wise may be profitable to himself?" (v.2). Certainly it is folly for anyone to think that he is doing God a favour by his righteousness, for to be perfectly right is nothing more than he should be. But in Eliphaz speaking to Job, this was beside the point, for he considered that Job was wicked, not righteous.
Eliphaz questions, "Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you, and enters into judgment with you? (v.4). Eliphaz considered this impossible, and therefore that Job did not fear God at all. But actually it was true that, because of Job's fear of God, God was correcting him. But what Eliphaz considered God's judgment against Job was not judgment at all, but discipline and correction.
Then Eliphaz comes out with his strong accusation against Job, though having not the slightest proof if it, "Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end? (v.5). Probably Eliphaz considered that Job's professed fear of God was total hypocrisy, and therefore Job deserved the greatest censure. Eliphaz was just the man to give that censure, for he was sure he was speaking for God. How sad was the delusion under which he was labouring! How carefully we must watch against any tendency on our own part to jump to conclusions as regards the condition of any other believer, or as regards our suspicion of anything in their life that may seem questionable. "Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor.13:7).
A LIST OF ACCUSATIONS (vv.6-17)
Eliphaz has worked himself up to such a state that he allows his imagination to run wild, daring to make a number or specific accusations against Job that were totally false. He says, "You have taken pledges from your brother for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing" (v.6). He did not however say what brother he was referring to, nor of what naked people Job was guilty of harming.
He also blamed Job for what he says Job had not done in regard to providing water or food for those who needed it (v.7). How did Eliphaz know this? He would have to be acquainted with all Job's life to have any such knowledge. Of course God knew what Job had done and what he had not done, and evidently Eliphaz thought that he shared God's knowledge!
In verse 8 Eliphaz is apparently charging that Job in the past as a mighty man possessed the land, dwelling in it as though he was honourable. But according to the principles of Eliphaz, Job must have been guilty of oppressing the widows and the fatherless.
"Therefore," he says, "snares are all around you, and sudden fear troubles you, or darkness, so that you cannot see; and an abundance of water covers you" (vv.10-11). He first reasons backward from the fact of Job's sufferings, seeing this trouble as the result of Job's wickedness; then he reasons forward, telling Job that because he has been so wicked this trouble has come upon him. This kind of thing is true of many people: they argue with no basis of actual fact, but from the viewpoint of their own suppositions. Only established fact can rightly be a true basis of discussion.
GOD'S INFINITE KNOWLEDGE (vv.12-14)
In this section Eliphaz only shows how grossly unfair he is. He accuses Job of saying what Job had not said at all. Is not God in the height of heaven? And see the stars how lofty they are" (v.12). "And you say, What does God know?" (v.13). Of course God is in the height of heaven, and Job had fully acknowledged this before (ch.9:4-12). Yet Eliphaz accuses Job of saying, "What does God know?" Job had spoken in complete contrast to this, declaring that "with Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding" etc. (Ch.12:13).
Why did Eliphaz then accuse Job as he did? Because he thought he discerned this attitude underneath what Job actually said. He considered that Job was hiding something in "the deep darkness," and thought that God could not see it because clouds covered Him (v.14). Whatever it was that Job had been guilty of, Eliphaz could not see it, though that did not keep him from condemning Job.
THE WAY OF THE WICKED (vv.15-18)
Eliphaz now asks Job if he will keep to the old way the wicked men have trodden (v.15), for he is sure that Job is bent on a wicked course. He says these wicked men had been cut down before their time, with their foundations swept away by a flood (v.16). He totally ignores what Job had argued in his answer to Zophar, that many wicked men had been cut down (ch.21:7-17), for he had no answer for this. He admits that the Almighty had fitted the houses of the wicked with good things, though they had said to God, "Depart from us" (vv.17-18). But he considered that the wicked would be cut down before their time, like Job was being cut down, and thus he side-steps the fact that many wicked men fill out their lives in pleasure without any infliction of trouble. He says "the counsel of the wicked is far from me." But the counsel of the wicked was just as far from Job as from Eliphaz, though Eliphaz wanted by this statement to show himself in contrast to Job!
THE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED (vv.19-20)
Eliphaz considered himself righteous and speaks of the righteous being glad at the punishment of the wicked. This will be true when God's judgments are in the earth, such as is seen in Revelation 18:20 concerning the false woman Babylon, over whose judgment the righteous will greatly rejoice. Did Eliphaz think he was right in rejoicing over Job's sufferings, and actually laughing at him? (v.19).
When he says, "Surely our adversaries are cut down, and the fire consumes their remnant" (v.20), was he not inferring that Job was his adversary, since Job had been "cut down" and was suffering the fire of God's punishment? Thus he really considered that Job was an enemy of God, not a believer at all.
APPEALING TO JOB TO REPENT (vv.21-25)
The advice of Eliphaz to Job is now seen in telling him to acquaint himself with God and be at peace (v.21). He was flatly refusing to believe that Job knew God at all, and was therefore sure Job needed to be converted to have good come to him. At least he did not consider Job's case hopeless, but Job would have to take his advice and "return to the Almighty." He urged Job to receive instruction from God. It is surely right to lay up God's words in our heart, but to accept the words of Eliphaz as God's word is a different matter. Job had not left the Almighty, therefore to tell him to return was insulting (vv.22-23). Let us never treat a suffering believer as an unbeliever.
The fact that Job was suffering was proof to Eliphaz that Job had departed from God, and if he would return he would be built up, with all iniquity being removed from him. He would be greatly blessed with the finest gold. He adds that "the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver" (v.25). This reminds us of the words of the Lord to Abram, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15: 1). But it does not seem likely that Eliphaz was personally enjoying the blessing of realising God Himself as his own true wealth. If so, he would not have been so unfairly representing God.
A BRIGHT FUTURE - IF (vv.26-30)
Now Eliphaz paints a lovely picture of the prospect of the godly man, an incentive to cause Job to repent. It is wonderful to have "delight in he Almighty" and to lift up one's face to God, to truly pray to Him with confidence that He will bear (vv.26-27). Eliphaz adds also, "You will pay your vows." If Job had made vows, he had likely paid them, though today the Lord Jesus tells believers not to make vows at all (Mt.5:33-37).
"You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; so light will shine in your ways" (v.28). In other words, what is spoken in faith will have positive results, and the ways of a believer will be manifest as "in the light." If one is cast down, yet has confidence that eventual exaltation will come, then God will save that humble person (v.29). Eliphaz allows the fact that a believer may be cast down, but he does not apply this to Job unless Job will take his advice to repent. But if so, then he tells Job that he will be in a position to help others, even to the point of delivering those who are innocent (v.30). In fact, Eliphaz was seeking to do this very thing for Job, considering that the purity of his own hands would deliver Job, if only Job would repent.
JOB'S REPLY (Ch.23-24)
HE LONGS TO LAY HIS CASE BEFORE GOD (vv.1-9)
What Eliphaz has said to Job was hardly worth an answer, so that Job practically ignores this and lays before his friends the actual distresses that occupied his mind and heart. They had had no answer for this before, and when he is finished they still have no answer. In spite of all that his friends have said, he tells them, "Even today my complaint is bitter" (v.2). Their much talk had not changed anything for him. He continued to groan in anguish, and says, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat. I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments" (vv.3-4). He wanted God, but felt God had withdrawn from him and would not answer his prayers. How little did he realise that God knew perfectly what Job was feeling and what he was thinking. He did not have to give Job a public audience to air his complaints. In fact, when finally God dealt directly with Job, Job had no arguments to present to Him at all. His first response to God was, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth" (Job 40:3-4).
But he indicates in verse 5 that if he was just allowed to present his case to God, then he would have an answer that he could understand, for he was sure that God was righteous, in contrast to his friends, and that God would rather take note of him as one who was righteous, not wicked (v.6). Did Job think he needed to argue his case with God, to persuade God that, because he was comparatively righteous, there was no reason for God allowing him to suffer as he did.
He speaks of the upright reasoning with God (v.7). But an upright man should realise he should never dare to reason with God as though he could persuade God to change his mind. However, Job thinks that by this means he would be delivered forever from having to endure what he feels as God's judgment, which was not actually judgment, but discipline. Thank God we know today that our arguments or reasonings have nothing to do with being delivered from judgment, but only the value of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus accomplish this wonderful result, when one receives Him simply by faith.
Job feels he has tried everything to find where he may meet with God. He had gone forward and backward and to his right hand and his left, but was left completely frustrated. He could not find God. Actually, God was not far from him, and God was seeking Job's deepest blessing. Job would not find it by his seeking, but by honest submission to God's hand.
JOB DEFENDS HIS OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS (vv.10-12)
This section shows the reason that Job found himself unable to find God. Job's own righteousness was the hindrance. He insists that God knew the way that Job took and that God's test of Job would prove him to "come forth as gold" (v.16). In comparison to others this was no doubt true. His foot had held fast to God's guiding steps: he had kept God's way - contrary to what his friends had said about him. Not only had he not departed from God's commandments, but he had positively treasured God's words more than his necessary food. Because he was the most righteous man on earth, he had too much confidence in his righteousness, and it was necessary for God to take from him the pride that his righteousness had occasioned in him.
Job now had to learn the lesson that his own righteousnesses were to God only "filthy rags," just as Paul had to deeply learn this lesson. Paul writes of reasons he had previously had for confidence in the flesh, ending with, "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil.3:4-6), "but," he adds, "what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (v.7). He would no longer put any confidence in all his virtues. Job later learned this too (Job 42:5-6).
AFRAID OF GOD (vv.13-17)
"But He is unique, and who can make Him change?" (v.13). Certainly God is unique, but Job thought His uniqueness was limited to awe inspiring majesty, and did not understand God's unique love and grace. Job says that God does whatever His soul desires, but he thought God's desires had no reference to the actual need of His creatures. How totally wrong was this conception! It is true enough that God performs whatever may be appointed for people (v.14), but His appointments are not intended to inspire terror in the heart of a believer, as this did with Job. Indeed, why did he seek God's presence if he was "terrified at His presence?" (v.15). But this is one of the inconsistencies of one who focuses on his troubles rather than on the grace of God.
Job thought it was God who made his heart weak, and that it was God Himself who terrified Job. Why? Because God did not cut him off in death before he had to face the darkness and deep darkness that had now overtaken him (vv.16-17).
DOES GOD FAIL TO GOVERN PROPERLY? (vv.1-12)
"Why are not times treasured up with the Almighty? Why do not they who know Him see His days?" (v.1 - JND trans.) Job wonders why God (who is Almighty) does not take account of all that takes place in time, and why those who know Him do not witness on His part any serious dealing with gross evil when it is present. For, he says, "Some remove landmarks," thereby stealing land from others; they violently steal flocks of sheep and feed on them; "they drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow's ox a pledge. They push the needy off the road," forcing the poor of the land to hide (vv.2-4). These were evils publicly known to take place. Job's friends did not have any such clear charge to lay against him, but only imagined he must have done wrong. But here were cases of manifest wickedness, and God had not dealt with them as He was dealing with Job.
He goes on to speak of the way in which the poor were oppressed by evil men, "like wild donkeys in the desert, they go out to their work," searching for food in the wilderness, gleaning in vineyards, often with little clothing and exposed to the cold night air or the showers of rain, huddling together to seek some semblance of shelter.
"Some snatch the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge from the poor. They cause the poor to go naked, without clothing; and they take away the sheaves from the hungry" (vv.9-10). Sheaves might have furnished a little food by beating out the grain, but even this was stolen from the poor.
Cruel men would employ them to press out oil and to tread winepresses, yet give them not even enough in wages to quench their thirst. Some were groaning in the pangs of death and the souls of the wounded were crying out. "Yet," Job says, "God does not charge them (the oppressors) with wrong" (v.12). But Eliphaz was charging Job with wrong.
BOLD REBELLION AGAINST GOD (vv.13-17)
Surely Job's friends knew he could not be classed with those who "rebel against the light" (v.13). This is not only sin moved by greed, but that moved by bold defiance of God. There was, and is, light that can be of great blessing to those who value it, but many "choose darkness rather than light," not merely giving in to their weaknesses, but deliberately choosing the ways of wilful evil.
"The murderer rises with the light" (v.14), though he does not know the light. Without compunction he kills the poor and needy. If he commits his evil action at night, he is like a thief, hiding until the moment he chooses to murder his victim.
The adulterer waits until it is dark enough that no one will recognise him, and in the dark breaks into a house which he has marked in the daytime, to commit his cruel crime of rape. Has society changed since Job's time? Not at all! There are still such crimes committed every day. People keep on demanding more laws to combat such things, but laws do not change men's rebellious hearts. They need to be saved by the grace of God.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE - NOW? (vv.18-21)
How many since Job have felt that something decisive should be done to curb the many glaring evils that plague society. Should not their recompense be swift? "Their portion should be cursed in the earth" (v.18), Job thinks; so that others would not turn into the way of their vineyards, that is, to follow the wicked because they prosper.
"As drought and heat consume the snow waters, so Sheol consumes those who have sinned" (v.19). This is true, but just as true of the righteous as of the wicked, speaking of their eventual end on earth. "The womb should forget him, the worm should feed sweetly on him; he should be remembered no more, and wickedness should be broken like a tree" (v.20). Though Job is speaking of what "should be," there is no doubt that these things will be the eventual end of the ungodly, so it would have been more wise for him to calmly wait for God's action to take place in its time, rather than to complain that His judgment was too slow. But Job ends this section with a strong reason for which judgment on the wicked should be swift, "For he preys on the barren who do not bear, and does no good for the widow" (v.21). This was certainly not a description of Job himself.
IS GOD THE PROTECTOR OF EVIL MEN? (vv.22-25)
Not only did Job feel that God was lax in His judgment of evil, but that God actually protected people in their course of wickedness. He thought that God used His power to draw the mighty evildoers away from the crowd, so that no man was sure of life (v.22). "He gives them (the wicked) security, and they rely on it; yet His eyes are on their ways" (v.23). Job knew this was true, that God perceived all they were doing, yet continued to protect them from harm.
"They are exalted for a little while, then they are gone. They are brought low; they are taken out of the way like all others; they dry out like the heads of grain" (v.24). At least Job recognised that the exaltation of the wicked was only for a little while, then they were brought low and taken away, "like all others," that is, they only shared the same end as others who were not wicked. If we consider this life only, then certainly everything is out of balance and frustrating. But all God's accounts are not settled on this side of the grave.
However, Job's friends were not considering eternity either, and as regards Job's arguments concerning the prosperity of the wicked, he challenges his friends to prove him a liar (v.25). Certainly they could not do that, and Bildad's reply does not even attempt this.
BILDAD'S REPLY THE GREATNESS OF GOD (vv.1-3)
The brevity of Bildad's reply is evidence that he had no answer to Job's predicament. He confines himself rather to fundamental facts that were important for all mankind, verses 1-3 dealing briefly with God's supremacy and power. "Dominion and fear belong to Him" (v.2). The greatness of His dominion is such as to inspire a wholesome fear in every creature. This was nothing new to Job, for he had insisted on this himself. "He makes peace in His high places." This peace was certainly not on earth, as Job was experiencing. When Christ was born, the angels announced, "on earth peace" (Lk.2:13-14), but peace did not follow and has not followed on earth since then. Why not? Because mankind rejected the very One who is "the Prince of Peace".
Then when the Lord was on the verge of His great sacrifice of Calvary, as He entered Jerusalem, the crowd who gathered were moved by God to say, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Lk.19:37-38). Though earth refused Him, heaven very soon received Him (after His resurrection), and anyone today who wants true peace will find it only in looking to the Prince of Peace in heaven. The day will yet come when the Lord Jesus will establish peace on earth, but not until He returns in judgment, to judge every evil thing that raises its head against the Lord of glory. Of course, Bildad did not understand in what way the Lord "makes peace in His high places," but how good it is for us to understand it today!
"Is there any, number to His armies?" (v.3). The Lord Jesus assured His disciples that if He asked the Father, He would provide him with "more than twelve legions of angels" (Mt. 25:53). Do angels have power? One angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night! (2 Kings 19:35).
Also, "Upon whom does His light not arise?" Just as the sun rises on all the earth (Ps. 19:6), so the Lord Jesus is the true light who, coming into the world, shed His light upon everyone (Jn.1:9). Of course Bildad had no knowledge of this, and little realised that God moved him to speak in this way
THE NOTHINGNESS OF MAN (vv.4-6)
Since God is so great, "what is man?" Can men possibly be righteous before God? Can one born of a woman be pure? Naturally there is no hope of man ever attaining such righteousness and purity, for man is a totally corrupted sinner Bildad however was not applying this humbling lesson to himself, but to Job! But we all need to learn this as regards ourselves. The New Testament supplies the answer to this serious question. Man can be righteous before God, but only by faith in the Lord Jesus who has suffered for our sins. Righteousness is not ours by nature, but is imputed to believers only because of their faith in Christ (Rom. 4:20-24).
BILDAD'S WORDS FUTILE IN JOB'S CASE (vv.1-4)
Job begins a reply that continues through six Chapters, and his friends are totally silenced. His language is amazing, specially considering the length of his discourse. He asks Bildad, "How have you helped him who is without power?" (v.2). For Job fully admitted his utter weakness in the face of his sufferings, and what he needed was help, not condemnation. If it was true that Job lacked wisdom (as Bildad intimated), where was there any wise counsel in Bildad's words? Job admitted that he did not know why God was dealing with him as He did, but his friends gave false answers to this question, so their advice was totally unsound.
"To whom have you uttered words?" (v.4). They would say they were speaking to Job, but their words were really not for him at all, but for an evil person. "And whose spirit came from you?" For Job did not consider that it was the Spirit of God who was moving Bildad.
GOD RULING IN THE DEPTHS (vv.5-6)
Bildad had spoken of God's greatness, but Job goes far beyond him in giving such honour to God. He speaks of various spheres in which God's greatness is seen, beginning here with those in death and under the water. This is the sphere of "things under the earth" spoken of in Philippians 2: 10. They tremble before God. Sheol (the state of souls and spirits as separated from their bodies) is naked before Him, in contrast to our own ignorance of those in Sheol. The state of destruction is chaos to us, but it is laid bare before God in its actual condition. He is superior to what is low and infernal.
HIS AUTHORITY IN THE HEAVENS (v.7)
Though in contrast to the depths, the heights are also in the hand of God. "He stretches out the north over the empty space." Had astronomers in Job's time observed that in the north there is a large space in which no stars are observable? We understand it is common knowledge among astronomers now. "He hangs the earth upon nothing." Mythology had all sorts of foolish explanations as to how the earth is sustained. But Job's assertion is perfectly accurate, as science has confirmed since his day What amazing power must be involved in God's maintaining the earth it its orbit, and all the planets and stars!
CLOUDS AND WATERS ARE IN HIS CONTROL (vv.8-10)
Here is God's amazing power seen also in His drawing up waters and binding them in clouds (v.8). Tremendous amounts of water are contained in clouds, yet the clouds are not broken through this, - until of course the time comes for God to release the water in rain upon the earth. In recent times we have heard of as much as three feet of rain coming as a deluge on earth in one day! How that rain was sustained in clouds until the time of its release is an astounding miracle.
Clouds too are symbolical of the obscurity by which the throne of God is covered (v.9). Psalm 97:2 tells us, "Clouds and darkness surround Him: righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne."
In verse 10, another version speaks of "the dim verge of the horizon" as being the boundary of light and darkness. This is "on the face of the waters." If one looks across the sea, the horizon appears to be a boundary beyond which all seems dark. Thus the greatness of God faces men with marvellous mysteries that awaken many questions that human wisdom cannot answer.
THE EARTH AND THE SEA (vv.11-12)
The term, "the pillars of heaven" evidently refers to the earth with its great mountains reaching toward heaven, pillars that often tremble when an earthquake strikes with its awesome demonstration of the power of God.
That power is seen in the sea also when it is stirred by fierce winds. Even on the small "Sea of Galilee" the disciples were filled with fear of being overwhelmed by the storm (Mk.4:27-38), and the oceans experience far greater storms than Galilee. But if such storms awaken both fear and awe at the power of God, God's rapid breaking up of the storm is also a cause of wondering awe (v.12). The disciples of the Lord Jesus found this too when "He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mk.4:39).
SUPREME IN HEAVEN (v.13)
"By His Spirit He adorned the heavens." We surely know this is true today God, by His Spirit, raised the Lord Jesus from death and set Him at His own right hand in glory. Heaven is therefore adorned with the glories of One who has won the victory over sin and death. Not that Job was thinking of this adornment, but God had it in mind from eternity "His hand pierced the fleeing serpent." Satan conceived the notion of ascending into heaven and being "like the Most High" (Isa.14:13-14), but the Most High pierced this proud serpent with a word of solemn conviction. God alone rules in heaven.
But though Job has far outdone Bildad in declaring God's glory, he adds, "indeed, these are mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him." In contrast to that small whisper, Job asks, "but the thunder of His power who can understand?" (v.14). Does it not put us all in our place?
HOLDING FAST HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (vv.1-7)
In Chapter 26 Job answered Bildad fully. Bildad's last argument was very brief, and after this Zophar had nothing at all to say. Job has already won the debate, though he fully, admits that he has not found the relief he is seeking. Now he spends five Chapters in his self-defence, which will get him nowhere as regards the answer to his distressing condition, for his comparatively righteous life had nothing to do with the answer to his questions.
He knows that God lives, but claims that God had taken away the justice Job felt he deserved. He knew that God is Almighty, but he accused God of making his soul bitter (v.2). He says that as long as he is able to breathe, his lips would not speak wickedness nor his tongue deceit (vv.3-4). Thus he flatly contradicted the accusations of his friends. He would not give them the least encouragement in telling them they, were right in any, measure (v.5). He was determined to cling to his integrity, and insists, "My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live" (v.6).
His friends had no proof whatever to the contrary of what Job said, for his actions had been good, but at the end of this book, Job's attitude is wonderfully changed. The one who had such confidence in his own righteousness, when face to face with God, said, I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (ch.42:5-6). The question of his good conduct was set aside entirely, when he saw, not merely, his past life, but himself in the light of God's presence. He abhorred himself, rather than defending himself.
Job ends this section by expressing the desire that his enemy, (one who opposed his claim of righteousness) would be like the wicked, not worth considering, and one who rose against him in his claim would be like the unrighteous, a contrast to Job himself (v.7). If this applied to his friends, let them consider it!
THE HOPE OF THE HYPOCRITE (vv.8-12)
Job's friends had accused him of hypocrisy, but he asks them as to the hypocrite's end. Though he gained much in this world, what can he do when God takes away his life? "Will God hear his cry, when trouble comes upon him?" (v.9). In fact, would a hypocrite delight himself in God to such an extent as to call upon God Himself? (v.10). It is not the character of such an evil man to really call on God, yet it was evident to Job's friends that Job was crying out to God in his affliction.
Job therefore realised that his friends needed teaching as regards the hand of God, so he would teach them (v.11). It was true they needed such teaching, though Job himself needed teaching of a different kind than he perceived his friends needed, for "the hand of God" is a tremendous subject. What Job knew about God's hand he would not conceal, but there was much indeed he did not know, as we all must realise in our ignorance.
Still, he tells his friends they. had seen God's hand in operation, and instead of considering soberly what was involved in these actions of God, they, were behaving with complete nonsense! (v.12).
THE CERTAIN DOOM OF THE UNGODLY (vv.13-18)
Job now proceeds to declare in language similar to that of his friends, the eventual doom of the wicked. But unlike his friends, he showed this in contrast to his own eventual end. They had spoken this way to identify Job as being wicked. But his summary of the wicked and their end actually shows the impossibility of Job's being identified as one of them. There seems to be similarities in Job's experience to that of the wicked, as in verse 14, if his children are multiplied, it is for the sword, and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread." Job's children had all been killed in a sudden catastrophe (ch.1:18-19), but Job is thinking beyond the present, to consider the eventual end of the wicked. His thoughts are surely inconsistent, for he has before so dwelt upon his own present circumstances that he could hardly see farther.
"Those who survive him shall be buried in death, and their widows shall not weep." Some may have a little longer, but the grave will soon claim them, and their widows would not even weep because they would feel no loss in the death of an evil husband.
He may heap up abundance of riches, like the rich man of Luke 12:16-21, who said in his soul, - Soul, you have many goods laid up for many, years, take your case, cat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, Fool! this night your soul will be required of you, then whose will those things be which you have provided? Thus one may pile up riches, but others, less foolish than he, will reap its benefits. The absolute folly of mankind is certainly evident in all this. We all know that our lives are very short at best. In fact, what is 100 years compared to eternity? If we insure our lives for that long, what do we have when it is over? If one leaves Christ out of his life, he has only torment to look forward to!
TOTAL OBLIVION (vv.19-23)
Thus the rich unbeliever lies down, then opens his eyes to find himself in torment, where terrors overtake him as a flood, the tempest of God's judgment takes him away (vv.19-20). This is graphic language, but Job is not so specific as the Lord Jesus was in Luke 16:23, concerning the rich man who died, "and being in Hades, lifted up his eyes." Thus, after death there is torment for the wicked. "The east wind carries him away" (v.21). The east wind is often spoken of in scripture as signifying God's judgment (Ex. 14:21). That judgment is slow to arise, but when it comes, it "does not spare" (v.22). Men may try to flee desperately from its power, as they do from hurricanes, but to no avail.
"Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place" (v.23). Rather than sorrowing at his disgraceful death, those who have known him will be glad he is gone. It is evident that Job had no fear whatever of his sharing a judgment like this, and his friends ought to have easily recognised that these things would not be true of Job. It would have been wise for them to frankly apologise to Job for their cruel charges against him.
WISDOM: PRICELESS AND PURE
EARTH'S MEASURED TREASURES (vv.1-6)
Job has spoken of the folly of wicked men. Now he shows that which stands in beautiful contrast to Chapter 27. The language here is magnificent, as Job considers what is altogether objective, not at all continuing any defence of himself in this Chapter, but extolling the virtues of wisdom, showing that all creation bears witness to the greatness of the wisdom of God. In thinking of this Chapter, we should do well to compare it to Proverbs 8:12-31, where wisdom is seen to be personified in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24.
But first, in verses 1-6 Job speaks of the places where the treasures of earth may be found. "There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore" (vv.1-2). God has seen fit to put these metals in places where men can find them without difficulty, and men certainly make much use of them, though they are largely ignorant of the spiritual truths that are symbolised by these metals. Gold speaks of the glory of God; silver, of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; iron, of the strength of the kingdom of God; and copper, of the holiness of God.
Even in the dark caverns of the earth, man introduces light to put an end to darkness (v.3), that he may search for ore. He sinks a shaft into the earth in places away from civilisation (v.4), let themselves down by ropes, and swing to and fro with the object of finding the metal they desire.
The earth itself produces bread, that is, grain, though deeper down the earth is turned up as by fire (v.5). "Its stones are the source of sapphires" (v.6). Stones by intense heat produce precious stones, and gold dust is found where heat has been. Job intimates that man knows these things and takes advantage of them.
HIDDEN TREASURES (vv.7-11)
In this section Job speaks of things more hidden from people normally, but which God brings to light (v.11). There is a path that no bird knows, though it can fly high above earth to observe what is below. No falcon's eye (which is amazingly keen) discerns it (v.7). The proud or fierce lion cannot by his superior strength, force his way into it (v.8).
But God's hand accomplishes what creatures cannot, even overturning mountains at the roots, to expose what is hidden beneath (v.9). Through the hard rocks He cuts out channels, using water to wear away the rock. And in those rocks "He sees every precious thing," which man would not discover till God saw fit to expose it (v.10). On streams on which man may expect to find treasure, He places darns that thwart men's intentions. But in the end, even what is hidden God brings forth (v.11).
All of these things, whether manifest wonders (vv.1-6) or more hidden things in nature, God has made available for the blessing of man.
BUT WHERE IS WISDOM? (vv.12-14)
But wisdom is only a dim vision in the distance, which men grasp after, but in all their searching they are totally disillusioned. "Where can it be found?" Job asks (v.12). Man by nature has no perception even of its value, nor is it found "in the land of the living" (v.13). Men have plunged into the depths of the sea, but wisdom is not there, though God's wisdom manifestly controls the raging oceans (v.14). For we cannot obtain wisdom even by closely observing the fact of His hand of great power in all the marvellous phenomena of creation. We observe His wisdom, but wisdom eludes us.
WISDOM'S PRICELESS VALUE (vv.15-19)
Job's friends had considered they had "the secrets of wisdom" (ch.11:6), but Job easily discerned that their arguments were not wise at all. He therefore faces them with the fact that wisdom is not so easily obtained. In fact, wisdom is impossible to be bought with gold or silver (v.15).
Job continues his subject of wisdom, saying that the finest gold (from Ophir) or onyx or sapphire stones, or crystal, or jewellery of fine gold have no value whatever compared to the value of wisdom (vv.16-17). Coral and quartz are not worth mentioning, nor rubies either, in estimating the value of wisdom, nor the topaz of Ethiopia, nor any pure gold (vv.18-19). In other words, absolutely nothing in nature can approach the value of true wisdom, for this is spiritual, not natural. Well indeed does God say in regard to what man considers wisdom, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (1 Cor.1:19). On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 2:7 tells us, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory." This wisdom is received only through faith in the Lord Jesus, by the revelation of the Spirit of God (v.10). How wonderful is this, far above all natural comprehension!
REPORTED BUT UNKNOWN (vv.20-22)
Job knew there is such a thing as wisdom, and men generally, realise that wisdom does exist. But where? All man's searching does not find it: "it is hidden from the eyes of all living" and even "concealed from the birds of the air" (vv.20-21). Though highly elevated above man, the birds have no understanding of it. Let us remember too that the birds of the air are typical of spirits, the unclean birds symbolising unclean spirits. God's wisdom is above the conception of these. "Destruction and death say, We have heard a report about it with our ears" (v.' 22), but only a report, for wisdom itself is known only by a direct revelation from God.
THE ONLY SOURCE OF WISDOM (vv.23-27)
"God understands its way and He knows its place" (v.23). Thus Job rises high above the speculations of men, who by nature have no idea of wisdom. God alone is the Source of wisdom. He understands it in absolute perfection, He who has established "the ends of the earth" and contemplates all that is "under the whole heaven," as no creature can possibly do (v.24).
It is wisdom far higher than man's conception that "established a weight for the wind" (v.25). For though air weighs nothing, yet the wind has such tremendous weight to it that it can break rocks in pieces (1 Ki.19: 11). Also God "apportions the water by measure." Who could even think of measuring the water of the oceans? Yet these things are perfectly under the control of our great Creator, and wisdom, no less than power, is manifest in such mighty works.
"He made a law for the rain" (v.26) as to how and when it is to be released, and in precisely what areas; and man has no ability whatever to change that law. Nor does man understand why God withholds the rain at certain times and places, and sends excessive rain at the times and places that He chooses. But all of this is subject to the laws of nature which God has established. "A path for the thunderbolt" indicates that thunder is not haphazard, but is always under wise supervision. In all this God's wisdom is declared (v.27). He prepared wisdom, He searched it out, leaving not one iota of its operation without fullest consideration. Does this not impress our souls with wondering admiration?
THE ESSENCE OF WISDOM FOR MAN (v.28)
This one verse gives a wonderful conclusion to the subject of wisdom. Job discerned this, though men generally have no regard for this simple yet profound pronouncement, "To man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding" (v.28). The only reason that wisdom eludes people is that "there is no fear of God before their eyes," so that they have no heart to depart from evil. The fear of the Lord is not terror, but a wholesome reverence that gives Him the place of supreme honour. Job recognised this, even though he had not been blessed with the revelation of the person of Christ, who is Wisdom personified, but his words surely show that the accusations of his friends were untrue.
JOB'S PAST GREATNESS
In this Chapter Job dwells upon the honour and dignity that had been his in the past. While he was sincere in what he said, and no doubt spoke truthfully, yet there is far too much of "sell" in what he says, so that in this way Chapter 29 is a contrast to Chapter 28, where he had given the Lord His place of supreme excellence. Nor had Job learned the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:10, "Do not say, Why were the former days better than these? For you do not enquire wisely concerning this." In fact, Paul goes further than this in saying, "But what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ" (Phil.3:7), so that he could add, "One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil.3:13-14). We surely ought to give God credit for knowing just what we need and at what time. If He has blessed us in the past, let us thank God, and therefore trust him for the present and the future.
Thinking of his circumstances at home, Job well remembered the days of his prime (v.4), when God's evident blessing was that of friendly counsel (though he now thought that God had virtually changed from a friend to an enemy). "When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me" (v.5). His circumstances were so pleasant that he considered this as an evidence of God's presence with him, but now his children were gone: his home life had been virtually desolated, and even his wife had been no help to him in his adversity (ch.19), though he does not even mention her. But in contrast to his present circumstances, his steps were bathed with cream and he was figuratively blessed with "rivers of oil."
HONORED BEFORE MEN (vv.7-10)
Now Job speaks of his going out to the gate of the city, the place of public administration (v.7), taking his seat there, his dignity being such that young men instinctively retired and aged men rose up in his honour (v.8). Authorities would not take the lead in speaking, for everyone would wait upon Job (vv.9-10). If someone other than Job had said this, it would be impressive, but when Job speaks this way, he exposes the pride of his self-importance in such a way as to reveal why it was necessary for God to bring him down. Though these things might be perfectly true, yet he ought not to have dared to glory in such honour. Actually, the honour men give to us should only humble us to the dust. In fact, how good it is for every believer to take to heart the words of the Lord Jesus, "I do not receive honour from men" (Jn.5:41).
JOB'S GOOD DEEDS APPROVED BY OTHERS (vv.11-17)
However, it was not merely Job's outward position of dignity that caused people to honour him, but his consistent kindness toward others. People blessed him because he "delivered the poor," the fatherless, and those who had no other source of help (v.12). If one was dying, Job was there to give help, and he gave widows cause to sing for joy (v.13). He was zealous for the cause of righteousness and justice (v.14), and was in effect "eyes to the blind and feet to the lame" (v.15). He was in practice "a father to the poor," searching out the truth of a case that might not be easily apparent (v.16). He opposed the wicked, breaking their fangs, their ability to gain by oppression; and rescuing victims from their clutches (v.17).
No wonder God says of Job, "there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (ch.1:8). Yet how deeply did Job need to learn the lesson of the words of the Lord Jesus, "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Mt. 6:3). There is never a reason that we should advertise the good things that we do. If we do it as "unto the Lord," (which ought to always be the case), we should remember that He knows and estimates its value far more accurately than we might do.
JOB'S CONFIDENCE IN HIS GOODNESS (vv.18-20)
Because Job had been exemplary in his conduct and his reliability, he had felt quite confident that this prosperity would continue unabated, his days being greatly multiplied and his death one of comfort in his nest (v.18). His root and his branch would be well watered, even in the night (v.19), and the freshness of vibrant life would continue as it had, and his ability for conflict (his bow) would be constantly renewed (v.20). How differently things turned out than he thought! Do we also consider that we may depend on past experience to sustain us for the future? If so, we forget that we are totally dependent on the grace of God always.
RESPECTED FOR HIS KINDNESS (vv.21-25)
Job returns here to speak similarly to what he did in verses 11 to 17, dwelling on the effects that had been produced in his hearers in days past when men listened carefully to him, not interrupting. Nor was this because of a forceful character that demanded men's attention, but because of the apparently gentle wisdom of his counsel (v.21). When he spoke, they had no rebuttal (v.22), for his words were as dew, having a calming effect, rather than as an irresistible storm. Evidently his words were with such weight that men would wait upon his counsel, and when they opened their mouth wide, it was not to speak, but to drink in the counsel Job provided (v.23).
Verse 24 may be somewhat obscure in its meaning, but rather than, "If I mocked at them," J.N.Darby's translation reads, "If I smiled at them when they were without courage." At any rate, Job is speaking of the way he helped those who lacked other help. When people were in confusion, Job was there to choose their way for them (v.25). He even felt himself as a king in the army," able to order matters for the people in a way the people knew was good for them. How unusual a man he was!
JOB'S PRESENT SHAME
MOCKED BY HIS INFERIORS (vv.1-8)
What a contrast was Job's condition now! Prominent men of dignity had once shown Job every respect, but now young men of what might be considered the lowest class, were making Job the subject of their mockery, - men whose fathers Job would have disdained to employ to work with the dogs that cared for his flocks (v.1). This reveals. another side of Job's character. He spoke before of his delivering the poor and the fatherless and those who had no helpers (ch.29:12). Was it love for them that really moved him? If so, where was his love for this class of people whom apparently he had looked at with contempt? Now they are treating him with contempt, and he feels deeply insulted. Again this shows the pride that Job needed to have broken down, and which was indeed broken down later.
He goes on to describe the sorry condition of these mockers. "Their vigour has perished. They are gaunt from want and famine" (vv.23). Job does not consider that some such people may not be to blame for their condition, but seems to think that, because they are reduced to a state of having to scrounge their food from unhealthy sources (v.4), being driven from men to live in caves or clefts in the valleys (vv.5-6), therefore then were not worth considering. For he says, "they were sons of fools, yes, son of vile men." Can God not save sons of vile men? Indeed he can, and often does. Ought not Job to have been concerned for others who were so reduced, specially when he himself had been reduced from his previous state?
JOB FEELS THEIR SCORN (vv.9-15)
"They abhor me, they keep far from me; they do not hesitate to spit in my face" (v.10). This was true of men's treatment of the Lord Jesus too, but it did not shake His confidence in the living God. Job considered that, because God had afflicted him, therefore "the rabble" had cast off restraint (v.11) to see in Job an opportunity of venting their evil tempers against him. In fact, this was similar to the Lord Jesus, whose words in Psalm 69:26 surely speak to us, "They persecute Him whom thou hast smitten." How different however was His case from that of Job; for God smote the Lord Jesus on account of our sins. Men, ignorant of such grace, only used the occasion to heap further abuse on the Son of God. If Job at that time had had the example of the Lord Jesus to consider, he might have thought rather differently. But Job allowed himself to be so affected by men's treatment of him that he became virtually unable to look up.
"They break up my path, they promote my calamity." He is evidently thinking of these scorners as intent on throwing him into confusion as to his normal path, and promoting (or increasing) the calamity the Lord had brought upon him. The crushing of this seemed to him like breakers of the sea rolling over him, as swept by a violent storm (vv.13-14). Under such persecution he became terror-stricken, and what prosperity he knew was as a passing cloud (v.15).
JOB'S SOUL POURED OUT (vv.16-19)
In these verses Job describes the agony of his suffering with his soul poured out, his very bones seeming to pierce him in the night, with unabated pain (vv.16-17). His garment, rather than being a becoming adornment, had become disfigured because his body was emaciated, so that the collar of his coat was ill-fitting.
But he no longer talks now of the persecution of callous men: rather, he attributes his sufferings to God, saying, "He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes" (v.19). It is good that he recognises that whatever suffering he may have and from whatever source, yet God is the One who has allowed it. But Job ought to have realised that God would not allow it if it was not going to be of pure blessing to Job in the end. Later he did realise the truth of Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." But at the moment he was so overwhelmed by his calamity that he would not give God credit for being who He is.
JOB FINDS NO HELP FROM GOD (vv.20-23)
What seems the most devastating misery for Job is that he considers God is against him. He cries to God but is not heard (v.20). Of course God heard him, but God answers only at the right time and in the right way. Had God become cruel to him? He thought so, but it was the love of God that delayed an answer. What he considered God's hand strong against him was really the strength of God's love for him.
"You lift me up to the wind"(v.22), that is, God was exposing Job to the cruel winds of circumstances, and had therefore thwarted any possibility of success for the poor sufferer. All he could look for now was the pain of death (v.23) which he speaks of as "the house appointed for all living." This fact itself ought to have calmed him to realise that his case was not absolutely unique: others were appointed to the same end.
COMPLETE MISERY (vv.23-31)
Would God deal harshly with a heap of ruins? Job hardly thought this would be the case, yet he felt himself to be only that (v.24). Why should he continue to be troubled? Did he deserve such treatment as this? Why, he had "wept for him who was in trouble, and his soul had been grieved for the poor" (v.25). It is sad that Job was virtually claiming to have been more considerate than God was! Why did he allow such words to fall from his lips?
He looked for good as a result of his apparent goodness, but evil came to him (v.26), and darkness came rather than light. But we can never enjoy the light of God's presence when we maintain our own self-righteousness. No wonder then his heart was in turmoil, unable to rest (v.27), and he had no expectation of anything but "days of affliction." He felt he had sunk as low as the animals, jackals and ostriches (v.29), but he was still speaking as a man! What music he had enjoyed was now turned into mourning and weeping.
JOB'S STRONG SELF-DEFENCE
Though Job's misery was complete, he returns in this Chapter to the defence of his whole life, which was comparatively more virtuous than that of any other man. God had said this to Satan long before (Job 1:8), so that there is no reason to doubt what Job says of himself, though he did not realise that the very fact of his declaring his own goodness was really sinful pride.
JOB'S CLAIM OF MORAL UPRIGHTNESS (vv.1-12)
He says he had made a covenant with his eyes (v.1). That is, he had purposed he would not be seduced by what his eyes observed. He would evidently look away from anything that might be tempting. For he recognised that God above knew every thought of his heart, for the Almighty was high above Job (v.2). Destruction was not properly for Job therefore, but for the workers of iniquity (v.3). Job was conscious of the fact that God observed his ways and the details of every step (v.4).
He insists, if he is suspected of walking in falsehood or practising deceit, let him be weighed in honest scales (vv.5-6), for God would thus be persuaded of Job's integrity. So confident was Job, that he could declare that if he had stepped out of the way or his heart had followed his eyes, if his hands were soiled, then let another eat what Job sowed, in fact, let harvest be totally rooted up (vv.7-8).
Again, he insists that if his heart had been enticed by a woman or if he had taken the initiative in going to his neighbour's house with motives of evil, then let his wife leave him and choose another. "For," he says, "That would be wickedness; deserving of judgment. For that would be a fire that consumes to destruction, and would root out all my increase" (vv.11-12). He was firmly decided as to the wickedness of such things, though his thoughts were contrary to large numbers of careless people today.
KINDNESS AT HOME AND ABROAD (vv.13-23)
Had Job despised the cause of any of his servants, whether male or female? (v.13). If this were true, he asks, what should he do when God raised the question with him? For God made these servants just as He had made Job. This fact had been considered by Job long before, we are sure, so that he was not guilty of oppressing the creatures of God (vv.14-15).
In verses 16-21 he speaks of sins of omission also. If he had not helped the poor or had ignored the plight of the widow, but had kept all he had for himself, so that the fatherless were left hungry; if he had seen anyone perish for lack of clothing or any poor man without covering; if the heart of the poor had not blessed Job, not being warmed by the fleece of his sheep; if Job had not championed the cause of the fatherless in the gate, the place of judgment; then he says, "let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket" (v.22). In contrast to this, notice his words in parenthesis (v.18), "But from my youth I reared him (the fatherless) as a father, and from my mother's womb I guided the widow."
He ends this section by showing that the fear of God was a vital matter with him (v.23). It was a terror to him to even think of the reality of God's destructive power against evil, so greatly so that he would not dare to offend One whose magnificence filled him with awe to the point of his saying, "I cannot endure."
REFUSAL OF EVERY FORM OF IDOLATRY (vv.24-28)
Was Job showing kindness to the poor in order to gain some material benefit for himself? He thoroughly repudiates this thought in these verses. Though his wealth was great, yet he had not made gold his idol (vv.24-25). He did realise the danger when riches increased, of setting his heart on them, for covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). If he had any such motives, only God knew these fully, and Job was willing to be examined by God and be judged according to truth.
In contemplating the sun and the moon, had Job been enticed to worship them, as many others are enticed? (vv.26-27). Both of these are amazing objects, but Job looked higher than them and had not even secretly given them honour. He recognised that anything that usurps God's place in the heart is an idol, and if he had been guilty of even secretly allowing this in his thoughts, then this would be iniquity deserving of judgment (v.28), for it would amount to denying the God who is infinitely high above all.
Though Job was no doubt speaking truth, yet there was no reason that he should thus advertise what his character had been. Why did he not stop to consider that God knew his actions, his words and his motives perfectly, and he could wait on God to bring to light the truth concerning His servant?
FRIENDLY AND HOSPITABLE (vv.29-32)
Job speaks now of his attitude toward mankind generally. It was evidently a concern to him that he should not rejoice when trouble came to one who hated him, nor take advantage of such an occasion to profit by the misfortune of such a person (v.29). In fact, he had not even allowed his mouth to sin by asking for a curse on that person's soul (v.30). Actually, this is only normal for one who has faith in the Lord Jesus (Ro.12:20), so that it was no reason for Job to boast. Unbelievers of course acted contrary to this, but we can only expect this from those who do not know the Lord.
Job's close neighbours ("men of my tent") could bear witness that no one was exempt from being provided with food from Job (v.31); and no traveller had to stay in the streets when in Job's vicinity: he was not forgetful to entertain strangers (v.32).
NO HYPOCRISY WITH ITS FEAR OF MAN (vv.33-34)
He was willing to be tested too as to whether he had covered his transgression, as Adam did when using fig leaves, as though this could deceive the Lord (v.33). One might cover his sin because he fears the criticism of the people and the contempt of families, but Job was confident he had no reason for such fear, no reason to hide at home from the eyes of critics (v.34). His life had been open and aboveboard.
A CHALLENGE TO BE HEARD (vv.35-40)
In considering all these things that he felt were to his credit, it is little wonder that Job again bursts into the urgent plea that someone in authority would hear him (v.35), and realises his only hope along this line is in "the Almighty." Why did He not answer Job's desperate cries? If God was taking the place of a prosecutor (which was certainly not so), why had He not written a book dealing with the whole case? Here in early years was the expressed desire for a book written by God! Now we know such a Book is written, not from the viewpoint of a prosecutor, but from that of God being for us, a Book that shows His understanding of everything about us, and has for its object both the glory of God and the greatest good for mankind.
Job says he would carry such a book on his shoulder and bind it to him like a crown (v.36). No doubt he was thinking that a book written by God would be a commendation of Job's character and conduct, but such a view was far from the truth. Such a book of God does commend faithful conduct, but it just as plainly condemns the pride of man, not exalting man at all, but glorifying God. But that same Book declares the greatness of the grace of God in saying the souls of sinful men who turn in true repentance to God and accept the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. How worthwhile indeed that we should carry the Word of God on our shoulders, and have it as a crown to adorn our heads!
In verse 37 Job says, "I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince would I approach Him." But God did not need Job to declare the number of his steps to Him: He knew them far better than Job did. Nor did Job, when he actually met God, approach Him "like a prince.' Rather, he took his rightful place in saying, to God, "Behold, I am vile" (ch.40:4). In other words, he approached God "as a sinner;" then God later gave him the place of a prince.
A FINAL APPEAL AS TO HIS LAND (vv.38-40)
Job has appealed to man and to God, and it seems as though his last appeal is an afterthought, for his land does not seem as important as what he has before spoken of, but he says that even his land, if it had reason to cry out against Job for misusing it, or if he had eaten its fruit without considering its proper needs, would be justified in producing thistles instead of wheat, weeds instead of barley. Of course Job would not say this unless he was confident that he had properly cared for his land. However, this last long discourse of Job was intended to convince his friends that he was not guilty of any of their charges against him, and had reason to be honoured for his many virtues. His friends have no answer.
Since his three friends have been silenced by Job's strong declaration of self-righteousness, our attention is drawn to a young man who has been a silent observer of this interesting drama. There appears to, be no doubt that Elihu is a type of Christ intervening as a mediator rather than as an accuser of Job, nor as a justifier of Job. His name means "My God is Jehovah," and he is the son of Barachel, which means "Blessed of God." Thus he has a strong relationship to God, and what he speaks is manifestly for God.
His anger was aroused both against Job and against his friends (vv.2-3), since Job had justified himself rather than God, and his friends had no answer as to Job's arguments, yet condemned Job. Elihu knew their accusations against Job were unjust, but since he was younger than they, he had waited to allow them time to say all they had to say before he would speak. Thus, the Lord Jesus did not come on the scene until late in the world's history, after men had been given time to declare all their opinions as to the reason for God's allowing suffering even on the part of those who were not guilty of wrongdoing. Questions as to God's dealings had been raised by many, including philosophers, and though discussed from many angles, they were left without any answer. Now the true Mediator between God and men has come, and every question is found resolved in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ.
REASONS FOR ELIHU'S SILENCE (vv.6-10)
Elihu speaks of his being young in contrast to his four hearers, who were "very old" (v.6). For this reason he had not spoken before, thinking he would be thought of as an immature upstart if he dared to speak. For it is perfectly right that "age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom" (v.7). However, after full opportunity had been given, none of these aged men had found the answer. Must the question therefore remain unanswered?
No! For "there is a spirit in man, and the breath (or Spirit) of the Almighty gives him understanding" (v.8). Eliphaz had appealed to his own observation (ch.4:8). Bildad had appealed to tradition (ch.8:8-9). Zophar was still more ignorant in appealing to his own intuition (ch.11:5,6). These are referred to in 1 Corinthians 2:9: "Eye has not seen (observation), nor ear heard (tradition), nor have entered into the heart of man (intuition) the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." Then it is added, "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit" (v.10). Elihu recognised this, that God Himself must reveal the truth by His Spirit if man is to know it; and as Elihu said, "there is a spirit in man." God has given man a spirit, and God's Spirit is able to communicate with man's spirit, if only man's spirit is subject to God.
"Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice" (v.9). A man may attain greatness in the world, and yet be ignorant of his Creator, or one may have years of experience in the world and still be without the knowledge of God. "The flesh profits nothing." If God is to be understood, this can only be by God revealing Himself (1 Cor. 2:12-14). With this in mind, Elihu can confidently ask his hearers, 'Therefore, I say, listen to me, I also will declare my opinion."
THE FAILURE OF THE THREE FRIENDS (vv.11-13)
Elihu had waited patiently while Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar had engaged in their reasonings, paying close attention to all they said, and he would not speak at all until the three friends were silenced and Job too had said his words were ended. Clearly it was true that not one of the three could convince Job or answer the problems he had raised (vv.11-12).
Why had they been silenced? "Lest you say, We have found wisdom" (v.13). God would humble them because of their own pride in thinking they had the answer that escaped Job. They could not vanquish Job, for Elihu says, "God will vanquish him, not man." Elihu knew that Job needed to be vanquished, but not by man, whether the three friends or himself. Whether we realise it or not, we all need to have God gain the victory over us. Only when we allow God this place of absolute authority will our own hearts find true joy and rejoicing.
ELIHU COMPELLED TO SPEAK (vv.14-22)
Elihu reminds them that Job had not directed his words against him, as they had been against his three friends (v.14); and he would not use their arguments against Job. He could see that they were dismayed to the point of having nothing more to say, so that it was perfectly becoming that the younger man could speak now, after waiting until all others were out of words.
Now he will speak, not because he thinks himself wiser than they, but because, being full of words, the spirit within him compelled him to express himself (vv.17-18). If one is led by the Spirit of God to speak, God will give him the words by which others will be affected. He will not need to grope for words, for his inward parts will be so full that he will feel ready to burst (v.19). When one is persuaded he has the message of God, the power of the Spirit of God will fully enable him to give that message.
When Jeremiah was mocked and derided by his people for declaring the word of the Lord, it so affected him that "Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But his word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones: I was weary of holding it back, and I could not" (Jer. 20:9). Thus it is clear too that Elihu, being given a message from God, was not allowed to hold it back. He would find relief only by speaking (v.20).
A vital matter is involved in this: he must not show partiality to anyone, and, if he flattered anyone he considered that this would be cause for his Maker taking him away (vv.21-22). He must give the truth simply and clearly as from God, who is no respecter of persons.
HE SPEAKS AS A MEDIATOR (vv.1-7)
Elihu did not take any haughty and unfeeling attitude as did Job's three friends, but speaks with simple humility, entreating Job to hear and consider what he says (v.1). He claims that his words come from his heart, uttering pure knowledge (vv.2-3), because he is conscious that the Spirit of God has made him, and the breath (or Spirit) of the Almighty gives him life. If you can answer me, set your words in order before me: take your stand" (v.5). This should be true of anyone who speaks for God.
In verse 6 he speaks of himself as Job's spokesman (or daysman), one taking up Job's case before God, not as defending Job's claims, but as concerned for the greatest good of Job's welfare before God. He therefore wants no place of superiority, but speaks of himself as being also "formed out of clay." Job's friends did not think of this when they accused him, for they considered their wisdom superior to his. Elihu did not want Job to be afraid of him, nor would he terrify Job by dreams, as Eliphaz did (ch.7:13-15). "Nor will my hand be heavy upon you" (v.7). This was in contrast to all three of Job's friends.
REFUTING JOB'S COMPLAINT AS TO GOD'S JUSTICE (vv.8-13)
Though speaking kindly to Job, Elihu must also speak faithfully. He does not question how Job had lived, but deals rather with what Job had clearly spoken. Job's friends had heard this, and Elihu also. He therefore faithfully quotes what Job had said, "I am pure, without transgression: I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me. Yet He counts me as His enemy; He puts my feet in the stocks. He watches all my paths" (vv.9-11). Of course Job could not deny that he had said this, so that Elihu had a firm basis for his message to Job.
"Look, in this you are not righteous. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words" (vv.12-13). Thus Elihu flatly contradicts Job's claim to be righteous. Was it right for Job to judge God? - especially when God is so great that He does not have to give account to man, though man must give account to God. God is always right to act as He pleases without explaining His reasons to man. Since God is sovereign, it is only right for every creature to be always in every circumstance subject to God, not daring to question His righteousness.
TWO WAYS GOD DEALS WITH MAN (vv.14-22)
Since God is invisible, He speaks to man in ways that do not manifest Him personally, but ways that awaken man's serious attention. Two of these ways Elihu now speaks of, first, in verses 15-18, and secondly in verses 19-22. Though man may not perceive it is God speaking to him yet often God does so "in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men." At such a time God has a captive audience, whether man wants to listen or not. God spoke to Pilate's wife in this way (Mt. 27:19), though sadly, Pilate did not act on her advice, for he had already trapped himself by his weak vacillation.
In cases of God sending dreams to people, He "opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction" (v.16), not to flatter man's pride, but just the opposite, that is, "to turn man from his deed, and conceal pride from man" (v.17). In other words, if a dream is a warning against what I may be inclined to do, or if it humbles me, then I should take it to heart.
Many unsaved people have been virtually driven by a dream to turn to God from their sins, as verse 18 indicates: "He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword." Thus, in pure grace God sometimes so shakes a soul by a dream that the person is shocked into turning to God from his sins. Sadly, not everyone will respond to God's appealing in this way.
However, another means of God's speaking is that of inflicting "strong pain," often in one's bed where he cannot occupy himself with many devices that keep him from listening to God (v.19). Sickness and suffering have often driven people to the Lord. One finds himself unable even to eat (v.20), then he loses weight and becomes virtually "skin and bones," with the prospect of an untimely death staring him in the face (vv.21-22). "His soul draws near the pit." Is there any help?
GOD'S RESTORING GRACE (vv.23-30)
Yes, there is help, but only in God, who knows how to send a messenger at the right time, a messenger who is also a mediator, "one among a thousand" (v.23). Such an individual is typical of the Lord Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim.2:5). He is the One who shows to man God's uprightness, as we see in Romans 4:26, "that He (God) might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." The means of such grace is wonderful, "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom" (v.24). Elihu could not have understood the full significance of his own words, for we know the ransom is the Lord Jesus Himself in His perfect sacrifice on Calvary for sinners. Job's friends could not think of suggesting a ransom for Job, but the heart of Elihu was overflowing with the conviction that there must be such a ransom since he knew the character of His Creator. The Spirit of God put such words into his mouth. It was not any man who had found the ransom, but God.
Though the flesh of an ailing person has wasted away to almost nothing, yet God's work will restore his flesh like that of a little child (v.25). Of course this is the picture of new birth, a wonderful prospect to place before the eyes of the suffering Job. Could he ever return to the days of his youth? Yes! The grace of God can produce marvellous results.
The freshness of that new life will issue in thankful prayer to God, just as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, who, being awakened and saved by the grace of God, had the distinction of having God say of him, "Behold, he is praying" (Acts 9:11). Such is the result of being born again, "He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him" (v.26). More than that, "he shall see His face with joy," a wonderful honour given to every believer because God has rendered to him His righteousness (v.26). These facts of truth are clearly defined in the New Testament, such as in 1 John 3:2 and in 1 Corinthians 1:30. Our own righteousness is discarded (as filthy rags) and the believer's confidence is now in God's righteousness.
The rendering of verse 27 may be a little uncertain, but it seems that the original King James Version is likely the most correct, "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not." A real work in the heart of men must begin with God. The individual is moved by the realisation that God is observing him, and he confesses his own sin and perversion with the admission that he has not profited by this. Thus there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. There is an immediate answer from God, "He will deliver his soul from going into the Pit, and his life shall see the light" (v.28). This is certainly because of the ransom that God has found, - in fact the ransom that God has provided, the sacrifice of His own beloved Son. Thus the gospel of the New Testament is anticipated by the words of Elihu, spoken by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This was spoken before the law was given by Moses, yet at that time Elihu assures Job that God worked these things oftentimes with man. Therefore the gospel of God's grace has been always the way of God's meeting the need of man, "to bring back his soul from the Pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living" (vv.29-30). The simplicity of this is beautiful, and Job could have no objection to it.
Nor does God speak only once to a man, but "twice, in fact three times," for we are poor listeners, and God is concerned deeply that souls should be brought back from the Pit, - delivered from the negative horror of being without God, and rather given the positive blessing of being enlightened with the light of life" (v.30).
IS JOB LISTENING? (vv.31-33)
It appears that Elihu has awakened a serious interest in Job, possibly also in his three friends, for none of them reply to Elihu's words. Elihu addresses himself directly to Job, for it was Job who needed an answer for his predicament. Elihu asks him, "Give ear, Job, listen to me, hold your peace and I will speak" (v.31). Elihu desired time to say all that was on his mind, yet he did not demand that he should do all the speaking. Rather, he invites Job, if he has anything to say, to speak it out plainly (v.32), for Elihu was not putting Job down (as his friends did), but desired that Job be justified. He did not mean that Job should justify himself, for this was already Job's tragic mistake, but no doubt he wanted Job to be justified from God's viewpoint, just as the tax gatherer was justified rather than the Pharisee, when he prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Lk.18:13-14).
Having asked Job to speak if he had anything to say, Elihu rightly tells him, "if not, listen to me; hold your peace and I will teach you wisdom" (v.33). Job then had nothing to say. No doubt he recognised that Elihu's message was higher than he had considered, and he wisely chose to listen.
HIS APPEAL AS TO WISE MEN (vv.1-4)
Since Job had wisely refrained from speaking, Elihu makes an appeal to all his hearers, as to wise men (v.2). This reminds us of 1 Corinthians 10:15, "I speak as to wise men: judge for yourselves what I say." Having heard Elihu's first words, Job and his friends were wise to listen rather than to speak. They had knowledge enough to know that their knowledge was deficient. But in listening they could test the words of Elihu, a test that he was fully willing that they should make (v.3), just as the taste tells whether food is good or not.
Elihu did not elevate himself above them, however, but appealed to them, unitedly with himself, to choose what is true justice, to "know among ourselves what is good" (v.4). Thus he wisely seeks to draw his hearers to a consensus of opinion.
HE REFUTES JOB'S QUESTIONING OF GOD'S JUSTICE (vv.5-9)
Elihu does not consider at all what the three friends had charged Job with, for they had no basis for their accusations. Rather, Elihu refers to what Job himself had said, "I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice" (v.5). However righteous Job was, it was unrighteous of him to dare to speak of God in this way. Further, Job had said, "My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression" (v.6). Job implied that God had brought him down to a state that could not be cured, though Job had not been guilty of any transgression (v.6). Because Job had thus spoken, Elihu asks, "What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water, who goes in company with the workers of iniquity and walks with wicked men?" (vv.7-8).
He does not accuse Job of being wicked, but of speaking like the wicked do against God, and therefore putting himself in their company! "For he has said, it profits a man nothing that he should delight in God" (v.10). In speaking thus, Job did not realise he was inviting further trouble.
JOB'S CHARGE REFUTED (vv.10-30)
Elihu therefore urges them to listen to his answer to Job, again crediting them with sufficient understanding to judge if he was telling the truth (v.10). Then he makes the simple, clear declaration, "Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity." Job ought not to have had the slightest doubt about this, no matter how greatly he may have suffered. Whatever questions may have arisen in Job's mind, the actual fact of truth remains, that "He (God) repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way "(v.11). He does not say when God repays man, for this is a matter that depends on God's inscrutable wisdom; but God will never do wickedly or pervert justice (v.12), as Job had inferred God had done in his case.
Then Elihu asks, "Who gave Him charge over the earth? or who appointed Him over the whole world?" (v.13). He is asking in effect, "Is God answerable to anybody?" Did Job appoint God as the authority over the whole world? If so, of course then God would be answerable to Job! Indeed the opposite is true: Job, and every individual, is answerable to God. In fact, if God so desired, He could "gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath" by which He gives life to all mankind. What would happen then? "All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (vv.14-15). How withering a rebuke to the pride of man! How clearly this tells us that we are always totally dependent on the power of God, not only in creating us, but in constantly, sustaining us in life.
Elihu appeals again to Job and his three friends, "If you have understanding, hear this; listen to the sound of my words" (v.16). He asks them pointedly, "Should one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn Him who is most just?" If one hates justice, he should not be allowed to govern. Would Job suggest this as to God? But God is most just. Even in men's normal relationships it is not fitting to accuse a king of being worthless or a prince wicked (v.18): how much more serious it is to imply that God is not righteous.
"Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor" (v.19). Job had been rich, but he should have observed that God did not favour him above others who were poor. In fact, he imagines that God showed partiality by allowing him to suffer rather that others. But this only exposed his lack of discernment. However, all men are "the work of His hands." God is engaged in a very wise work in dealing with every individual.
Men do not have authority over their own lives: in a moment they die, in the middle of the night; the people are shaken and pass away; the mighty are taken away without a hand" (v.20). Whatever man may think or say about this, his utter helplessness is evident. God's eyes see what man does not, for His eyes observe all the ways of man and every step he takes (v.21). Men may seek darkness to hide themselves, but their efforts in this matter are futile (v.22). They love darkness rather than light, but the darkness hides them only from the observation of other men, though they stupidly think they can deceive God.
Samuel Ridout in his book on Job, says the meaning of verse 23 is that "He (God) does not need to study a man's ways, but at a glance, as it were, knows him and enters into judgment with him" (P. 192). "Therefore He knows their works," as without need of patient investigation, and overthrows them, even in the night (v.25), when they think to hide themselves from view, "and they are crushed." This often happens, but only when God decides it. Thus He may strike them in their wickedness in the open sight of others (v.26) rather than in the dark. The reason is immediately given, "Because they turned their back from Him, and would not consider any of His ways" (v.27). This was not true of Job, yet he had spoken in such a way as the wicked speak.
"They cause the cry of the poor to come to Him, for He hears the cry of the afflicted" (v.28). These were those who oppressed the poor.
Did God hear the cry of the poor? Yes indeed! Did God hear the complaints of Job? Job did not think so, but God does hear, and He will answer in His own time and way. Well might Elihu then ask, "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" (v.29). At the moment God had not given quietness to Job, though He certainly did so later. On the other hand, when God hides His face, who then can understand Him, whether a nation or an individual? God does either of these things when He pleases, and submission to Him is the only proper response from man.
Each of these cases is used by God to put the hypocrite in his place (v.30), for a hypocrite would like to have the place of authority, but his thoughts are moved by his feelings, not by faith, so that he is defeated by God's sovereign wisdom in doing things in a way that does not pamper men's feelings. People then are not snared by the hypocrite if they simply believe God.
THUS, JOB REQUIRED TESTING (vv.31-37)
Elihu indicates that God was testing Job. If Job was failing the test, he must be tested further. Could Job not say to God, "I have borne chastening: I will offend no more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more?" It was plain that Job did not see the reasons for God's dealing with him. Why not then humbly appeal to God to teach him, rather than criticise God?
Should God repay Job according to Job's terms - just because Job did not approve? (v.33). Elihu therefore tells Job, "You must choose, and not I." It was Job who was being tested. Would he choose to criticise God or to submit to God? Thus, he was invited, "speak what you know." When he criticised God, he did not know what he was talking about, but spoke what he suspected might he the case. How good to remember that the Lord Jesus always spoke what He knew (Jn.3:11).
"Men of understanding" or "wise men" would listen to such advice, and realise that Job had spoken of God without knowledge or wisdom (vv.34-35). Well might Elihu desire that Job might be tried to the utmost because his answers were like those of wicked men (v.36). Job should have known better, for he was not wicked. Yet whatever other sin he might be guilty of, Job was adding to it the serious crime of rebellion against the God of all creation, as though he could withstand God and prosper! (v.37).
Chapter 35 - GOD TESTS CONSISTENTLY WITH HIS CHARACTER
Elihu had spoken of God's testing Job (ch.34:36), and in this Chapter provides what is true of God's test of mankind. It is clearly connected with Chapter 34, but is distinct also, for Chapter 34 deals with God's character being vindicated, while now God's character is seen in the way He tests all mankind. There are three divisions in the Chapter, the first of which indicates that
GOD IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN MAN (vv.1-8)
"Do you think this is right? Do you say, My righteousness is more than God's? (v.2). This was very clearly what was implied in Job's words, for he had said he was righteous and God was remiss in His not recognising Job's righteousness. How careful we should be when we are tempted to complain, for we are saying in effect that God is not treating us rightly! Job had questioned if there was any advantage or profit in being righteous, more than if he had sinned (v.3), that is, he thought, "what is the use of being righteous if the results are not what I imagined thy should be?" How can a believer entertain such unbelieving thoughts?
Elihu answers this by directing Job's eyes to heaven. Just to observe the heavens should make anyone bow with awe at the greatness of the glory of God. Both the heavens and the clouds are "higher than you." The obscurity caused by clouds should move us to realise that it is impossible for mere man to perceive why God deals as He does: His ways are hidden from human observation.
If you sin, what do you accomplish against Him? Or, if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him?" (v.6). Do men think they can change the truth of God into a lie? Well might God laugh at their foolish impotence!
On the other hand, if one is righteous, does he think he is doing God a favour by this? (v.7). In being righteous, he is not doing more than he should. Why should he expect special recognition? Thus, Elihu levels man's pride to the dust, whether pride in his own rebellious attitude, or pride in his righteous character. It is true enough that a man's actions, bad or good, may affect other people (v.8), but they do not influence God.
Job had recognised before what Elihu insists on here, that his conduct, whether good or bad, did not really influence God. How inconsistent it was therefore that Job would accuse God of unfairness, for he was practically saying that God should make an exception in Job's case because Job was such a righteous man! Unbelief contradicts itself.
WHY IS THERE NO ANSWER FROM GOD? (vv.9-13)
Job was not the only one who suffered what he considered oppression. Elihu knew there were multitudes who cried out for help (v.9), and we know it is the same today. "But no one says, Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?" (v.10). People do not find help because they cry out (not to God, but ) to governments or institutions, or more likely cry out against the government. But God can give songs in the night of man's distress, yet man does not consider this. Elihu is speaking of people generally, not only of Job. Even though God is their Maker, they seem blinded to the fact that He is the only One who can truly relieve them.
Does God not teach us more than the beasts? Does He not give greater wisdom to man than to birds? (v.11). Yet beasts and birds are cared for by God's preserving mercy. Why does man not consider this and realise that he too is dependent on his Creator? In other words, since God has given greater understanding to men than to beasts and birds, why do men not show it by relying on God?
People cry out, but God does not answer because of the pride that moves them (v.12). The many demonstrations today demanding the people's rights are clearly the expression of man's pride, for in so demonstrating, they are telling the world they are wise and those who oppose are not worth considering, - and even God Himself is given this inferior place. Can they expect God to listen to their empty talk? (v.13). They altogether forget that He is "the Almighty."
THOUGH NOT SEEN, GOD MUST BE TRUSTED (vv.14-16)
Because God is not visible, people excuse themselves from any responsibility toward Him (v.14), but the witness of creation and conscience combine to declare that He is a God of justice, and "you must wait for Him." He does not act when we want it but in His own time He will bring everything into proper perspective, This therefore demands faith.
Job had criticised God for allowing the wicked to prosper while he, a righteous man, was suffering. Therefore Elihu tells him that because God had not in anger punished the wicked quickly, nor had apparently taken much notice of man's folly, therefore Job had opened his mouth in vain criticism (v.16). He had not at least paused to consider wisely what he was saying, and his many words lacked knowledge (v.16).
SPEAKING ON GOD'S BEHALF (vv.1-4)
Elihu continues in the same strain, for as he says, there is much more to be said on God's behalf. Where did Elihu find his knowledge? He fetched it "from afar" (v.3), which would remind us that the Lord Jesus brought the knowledge of God from heaven itself, far above man's ability to produce wisdom. He would ascribe righteousness to his Maker. Job had not done this. Elihu insists that his words are not false, and that One who is perfect in knowledge was with them (v.4). This can be said only of God, and Elihu implied that God was with Job rather than against him.
GOD'S CARE OVER THE RIGHTEOUS (vv.5-7)
Though God is mighty, yet He despises no one. How different than so many "great men" of this world! "He is mighty in strength of understanding." The strength of God is absolute perfection. In the long run, He does not preserve the life of the wicked, but in contrast He gives justice to the oppressed (v.6). But more than justice, His eyes are upon them for good: He lifts them up to a position of dignity as though on the throne with kings. Today God has set the Lord Jesus on His throne of infinite glory, and every believer is "accepted in the Beloved One" (Eph.1:6), therefore linked with Christ on His throne. Of course Elihu did not understand this, but he realised that God gives believers a position of dignity high above their present circumstances. Job did not understand this, for he was swamped by his circumstances.
GOD'S OBJECT IN SENDING TRIAL (vv.8-15)
But though God delights in blessing the righteous, yet they, as well as the unrighteous, will find themselves subjected to trials, as indeed was true of Job. What does the trial do? It brings out what is actually in the heart. When God allows people to be bound in cords of affliction (v.8), it is with the object of getting their ear, for then He tells them wherein they have transgressed and acted defiantly, which gives people the opportunity to listen and to turn from iniquity (vv.9-10). Job's previous life had not been that of iniquity, but his bold criticism of God was certainly iniquity, little as he realised it.
If they obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasure" (v.11). Was there not, even at this time, opportunity for Job to prove true such blessing as this? Yes indeed, and Elihu desired it for Job. Also Job did eventually experience such prosperity, for he did listen when God spoke to him.
On the other hand, those who failed the test by refusing to obey the Lord would "perish by the sword," if not by a literal sword, then certainly by "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Since they refuse knowledge, "they shall die without knowledge" (v.12).
More serious still is the case of "the hypocrites in heart" (v.13), for "they store up wrath." These are those who pretend to be believers while their hearts are against God. "They do not cry for help when He binds them." When the Lord puts them in a bind, they totally fail the test, for how can a hypocrite honestly cry to the Lord for help? They are defeated by their own hypocrisy, and die in their youth in company with perverted people (v.14). Their foolish choice in life decides their end in death. In contrast, the poor who know how to honestly cry to God are delivered. The affliction and oppression they suffer are the test by which God "opens their ears" to listen to Him.
THE TEST APPLIED TO JOB (vv.16-21)
If Job had not been crushed and resentful concerning this test, Elihu assures him that God would have brought him out of his distresses "into a broad place where there is no restraint" (v.16). Not that Job had completely failed the test, as hypocrites and others had, for God was still testing him. But Job's blessing was hindered by his conception (or misconception) of judgment and justice (v.17).
Is there such a thing as God's wrath? Absolutely! Because this is true, Elihu tells Job to beware lest God might take him away with one blow, and a large ransom would not help to avoid it. He is speaking of a ransom that Job might bring, not of the great ransom God has now provided in the gift of His beloved Son, for when one receives Him as his substitute, His ransom accomplished on Calvary is sufficient to redeem the most guilty.
Had not Job experienced the fact that all his riches and all his prominence could not keep him from distress? (v.19). But he had practically desired the night and oblivion, and Elihu urges him to change his mind as to this, for it was only the cutting off of people in their place (v.20). He did not want Job to fail the test by turning to the iniquity of judging God, for it was this bad fault that Job had chosen, rather than bowing in faith to the affliction that tried him (v.21).
GOD'S GREAT WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (vv.22-25)
Elihu turns again to speak objectively of the greatness and glory of God, no longer of Job's subjective need, for if God is recognised for who He is, this will have vital effect on how one responds. Being absolutely all-powerful, God must have the place of highest exaltation; and therefore who else could possibly teach as He does? (v.22). On the one hand, who has ever given God an assignment? Or on the other hand, who can dare to tell Him He has done wrong? (v.23). Only contemptible pride could ever have such an attitude.
Whatever God does, it is worthy of our profound respect. "Remember to magnify His word" (v.24). People have rightly composed songs to celebrate what God has done. As to creation, "everyone has seen it". Man is a spectator who ought to be profoundly impressed by the wonders of creation (v.25).
THE WONDER OF CLOUDS AND RAIN (vv.26-29)
God is infinitely greater than human intellect can ever comprehend, "nor can the number of His years be discovered" (v.26). What an understatement! Elihu illustrates this by reference to God's drawing up drops of water from seas, lakes and rivers and causing them to be distilled into rain (v.27). We know this happens continually, so that the wonder of it does not lay hold of us as it should, and we easily forget that the power of God is necessary to keep the waters continuously in their wonderful cycle.
It appears likely that as Elihu was speaking the clouds began to drop their load of rain on the earth, pouring "abundantly on men" (v.28). The formation of clouds evidently attracted his special attention. Who understands why they spread out as they do? (v.29). And why was this accompanied by thunder, which is so often the case in a rainstorm? However, is it not the case that God was at this time providing a suitable object lesson for Job?
SIGNS OF GOD'S WORKING (vv.30-33)
All of these things are evidences that there is far more than "happen stance" involved in changing weather, etc. The light scattered under the whole heaven is significant of God's giving light as He pleases. "The depths of the sea" (v.30) speak of what is unfathomable to man, yet God covers this: He controls all that is in the seas, which is typical of the nations (Rev.17:15), and by His perfect wisdom He judges the peoples, - that is, all nations. At the same time He gives food in abundance (v.31), yet men in their haughty self-sufficiency give Him no credit for the amazing abundance of food that He provides for them.
"He covers His hands with lightning" (v.32). The sharp, searing flashes of lightning are no mere unexplained occurrences, but the work of the hands of God. Man can certainly not duplicate this, nor command the lightning where it should strike. God does this, for lightning does not just happen to strike where it does.
"His thunder declares it" (v.33). If man ignores what one of his senses (his sight) witnesses, God appeals to another of his senses (his hearing) by sending His thunder, which is sometimes so tremendous as to shake the very ground. Even animals (cattle and many others) are strongly affected by it, and only a cold-hearted, ignorant rebel against God can dare to reject such a sign of the Creator's intervention in the affairs of His creatures.
MAN'S IMPOTENCE IN THE STORM (vv.1-5)
As the storm breaks upon them, Elihu himself trembles (v.1). The thunder of God's voice calls for man's close attention and His lightning spreads over the whole visible area (vv.2-3). "After it, a voice roars. He thunders with His majestic voice" (v.4). "God thunders marvellously with His voice: He does great things which we cannot comprehend" (v.5). Here before Job's eyes was an object lesson concerning the spiritual storm he had experienced. He could certainly not stop the storm, yet God would allow it only temporarily. He knows how to make the storm a calm (Ps.107:29), as the Lord Jesus did when His disciples were torn with fear (Mk.4:38-39).
GOD'S WAYS IN WINTER (vv.6-9)
Though it was likely not snowing at this time, Elihu brings to bear another feature of the weather that God provides sometimes to speak to man's heart and conscience. He tells the snow or the rain when to fall on the earth, sometimes a gentle rain, sometimes a fierce rainstorm (v.6). Men have tried in many ways to control the weather, - a foolish, futile endeavour for they do not want to allow God to have His way. All of these things were intended to appeal to Job as regards the unpleasant circumstances he was enduring. Would Job not allow God to have His way? Thus the storm was a most important object lesson for him.
MAN'S HAND SEALED (vv.7-10)
Whatever man tries to do about it, God sends such weather as to seal the hand of every man, that everyone will know His work as infinitely greater than theirs (v.7). The beasts take refuge in dens, whether to hide from the wind or the thunder and lightning (v.8). From the south comes the whirlwind and cold from the north. Ice comes from the breath of God, - air that God sends in a cold state (vv.9-10).
STORMS AND THEIR VARIOUS EFFECTS (vv.11-16)
Thick clouds are saturated with moisture, and the clouds whirl as propelled by the wind. But all this is by the guidance of God, directed as He commands (v.12). He causes the rain to fall for three express reasons, - for correction, which man needs often; for His land, - which requires rain if it is to bear fruit; or for mercy, - at times when His creatures suffer from drought. If there is an excess of rain, no doubt this is intended for man's correction. "Praise the Lord fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word" (Ps. 148:7-8). If Job had realised this, it might have saved him some deep soul distress.
Elihu urges Job to stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Since Job thought he knew how the Lord should act toward him, did he know when and how God dispatched the rain and even caused the dark cloud to shine as light? Did he know the balancings of the clouds" (v.16) - a lesson as to God's balancing the clouds of Job's suffering in a way that Job would never have thought of. But these are works of Him who is perfect in knowledge."
ELIHU'S BEAUTIFUL CONCLUSION (vv.17-24)
"Why are your garments hot when He quiets the earth by the south wind?" (v.17). There are times of quietness and warming instead of bitter cold. Why? In fact, Job had before had the experience of summer warmth, and now was experiencing winter cold in his personal life. He had taken the warmth for granted and when the bitter cold came, he questioned why? Elihu tells him in effect that he should ask why he had experienced the pleasantness of summer warmth. Indeed, when these extremes happen is a question no-one but God can answer.
Again, had God required Job's help in spreading out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror? (v.18). Indeed the skies are just one more example of the miraculous power of God by which He seeks to turn our eyes heavenward while taking the place of total submission to One who is so high above us.
Could Job teach his friends (including Elihu) what to say to God for Elihu himself acknowledges that he can prepare nothing to say "because of the darkness" (19). For God's ways are enshrouded in darkness until He reveals Himself. In other words, let God speak first before I dare to lift my voice.
"Should He be told that I wish to speak?" (v.20). Job had indicated this in Chapter 23:3-4, saying he would present his case to God, filling his mouth with arguments. Did he do so when God finally spoke to him? No indeed! Rather, he said, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth" (ch.40:3-4).
"Even now men cannot look at the light when it is bright in the skies." Even though the light is bright, oftentimes men cannot see it because of the clouds, as was the case with Job. God comes from the north, the direction of mystery, yet in golden splendour, for His majesty is awesome and His greatness unsearchable. He is Almighty and we cannot discern His greatness. His power excels all that might be advanced from any direction (v.23). His judgment is supreme in wisdom, His justice pure and untainted by any questionable consideration. He does not in any way oppress, as is the case with practically every government of men, to some degree at least.
"Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart" (v.24) . Whether Job or his friends, all of whom considered themselves wise, their wisdom did not impress God, and he showed no partiality to any of them, as they may have hoped He would. All men everywhere have serious reason to fear God, and indeed to tremble in His presence.
Thus Elihu had spoken simply for God, and in this he is a type of the Lord Jesus, the one Mediator between God and men.
It has been remarked that Eliphaz in his effort to comfort Job presented his own observation as a conclusive witness that he was right in what he said (Ch, 4:8). Bildad, in following Eliphaz, appealed to the tradition handed down from older men as being reliable witness. Then Zophar virtually told Job that he was right because his own intuition told him so! All this was vain. Elihu alone insisted that mankind is totally ignorant of God unless God reveals Himself. Now God can speak!
THE LORD HIMSELF SPEAKING (Ch.38-41)
Marvellously, God Himself directly intervenes in this discussion so early in the history of man. The storm that had been brewing as Elihu spoke becomes a whirlwind, and God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. Job had felt his whole life to be in the vortex of a whirlwind, but he little realised that God was speaking in the very troubles he faced, therefore God spoke directly to him. This was miraculous, of course, and there was no possibility that Job would not listen.
It may seem amazing that God would take time to speak to one man in the presence of only a few others when the message He gave was so wonderful that all mankind should benefit by it. However, it was not necessary to speak to large numbers, for the complete record is given in writing for the benefit of every person who will read it, from that time in early history throughout all succeeding history. Who could dare to question the magnificent wonder of these words directly from God in Chapters 38 to 41? How well it is for us to take this message deeply to heart.
Are His words too philosophic to understand? Not at all! This is no treatise on theological mysteries, but a plain appeal to simple honesty, concerning the evident facts of God's creation. It surely puts man in his place, for it gives God His true place of Creator and Sustainer of all the universe. How well worth our serious meditation are all the details of which God speaks to Job.
GOD'S CALL TO JOB (vv.1-3)
It should be very clear to everyone that God is not speaking to Elihu, but that He confirms what Elihu had said as He answers Job directly (v.1). Most of what God says is in the form of questions. His first question is, "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge," (v.2) - in other words, "Who do you think you are, Job?" Job's words lacked the knowledge he ought to have had, and God will deeply impress this upon him.
"Now prepare yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer Me" (v.3). God expects Job to take only a man's place, and the questions God asks are simple enough for a man to understand, though Job would find himself helpless to answer such questions.
QUESTIONS AS TO GOD'S WORKS OF CREATION (vv.4-38)
This section is divided into seven parts, beginning with
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH (vv.4-7)
"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (v.4). Does the earth have foundations? - an earth that revolves in space with nothing to hold it up? Yes, it could not even exist without a fundamental basis of truth, but could Job explain this? Can anyone today explain it? No! For one thing, none of us was present when God laid these foundations, and who can understand anything about the way that creation came into existence? "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:9). The earth's foundations and earth itself were created at the same instant, simply by the Word of God.
"Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!" (v.5). Of course Job knew that only God could do this. "Who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened?" (v.6). Certainly the foundations of the earth are not fastened to anything visible to us.. Whether Job knew this at that time or not, he could certainly not answer God's question. When man builds he must have a foundation fastened to something solid, but what of God's building? Man too requires a corner stone. Who laid the corner stone for God's building?
[Creation of Angels]
At the creation of earth "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." There is no doubt the sons of God are angels (ch.1:6), who were therefore created before the earth was. If "the morning stars" are literal stars, then the stars too were created before the earth was, it may be objected that Genesis 1: 16 seems to indicate that God made stars on the fourth day of the refurbishing of the earth, but when we are told, "He made the starts also," this is likely not chronological, but a notice of a creation prior to the history of the fourth day. We may question if literal stars can sing, but science has told us that there is a harmony of sound emanating from the stars. At least there was a great celebration among God's creatures when He created the earth.
HIS CONTROL OF THE SEAS (vv.8-11)
"Who shut in the sea with doors?" (v.8). God is not speaking here of the original creation, but of His separating the waters above from the waters beneath (Gen.1:6-7). For the earth was at first covered with water, then the waters were separated and the dry land appeared. As the Word of God caused the appearance of the land, so His Word caused the waters to be gathered "into one place" (Gen.1:9).
As to the seas being gathered together into one place, it is a known fact that all the seas are connected, which is not true of the lands. But this tremendous body of waters, always in motion, often surging in mighty waves, so that man is helpless before its raging, is yet under the perfect control of the Creator. He says, "I make clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band." Yet how good to read in Psalm 93:4, "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea."
This is beautifully confirmed in verses 10 and 11: "I fixed My limit for it and set bars and doors, when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop."' People may speak of "natural laws" as causing this phenomenon, but who is the Author of natural law?
How striking is the spiritual significance of God's control of the seas! Job felt as though the waves of the sea were engulfing him in the succession of painful tribulations that seemed to be uncontrolled. Believers may pass through times of turbulent unrest and distress as though tossed by the waves of a rolling sea, but God is in perfect control of all this, and is able to quiet the sea immediately, just as the Lord Jesus did when His disciples were so alarmed: "He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still:' and the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mk. 4:39).
THE DAY DISPLACING THE NIGHT (vv.12-15)
Did Job decide when the morning was to dawn? (v.12). What a question for the man who thought he could practically make God accountable to him! The morning always follows the night, and what man can change this amazing fact? Job had been feeling the darkness of night in the hard experiences he had suffered. If he could command the morning, then he could bring complete relief to the trials of darkness. But only God can cause the dawn to know its place.
Verse 13 reminds us that when the millennial day dawns it will embrace "the ends of the earth," and the wicked will be shaken out of it. The wicked, who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, will at that day be exposed by the light of "the Sun of righteousness" arising with "healing in His wings." The Lord Jesus, the true Light, will so expose the wicked as to shake them out of the earth.
As to verse 24, Samuel Ridout writes, "As the marks of the signet ring upon the formless day, so the light stamps upon the face of the earth the varied forms and colours of all things. They stand out like a lovely garment - or the reverse, a scene of ruin - under the light. The light shows all things as they are" (The Book of Job - S. Ridout - p.227).
Because the wicked love darkness, then light is withheld from them (v.15), and their arm, upraised in opposition to God, is simply broken. Job should certainly have been deeply impressed by this, for he had been dangerously close to raising his arm in opposing God, and in this way acting as the wicked do.
THINGS UNFATHOMED, UNMEASURED (vv.16-21)
Now God asks Job if he had entered the springs of the sea or walked in search of the depths (v.16). We are told that the insect population of the world is far greater in weight than all the human and animal population - though it would require quite a number of mosquitoes to equal the weight of one elephant! But all the population of earth -human, animals, insects and birds - are nothing compared to the population of the seas, for the seas are populated in all areas and at every level. Job had no idea of what was unseen beneath the surface of the seas.
Had the gates of death been opened to him? (v.17). Of course the seas have swallowed countless millions of people (including those drowned in the flood of Noah's day); but apart from this, did Job understand where death had taken those who had been claimed by it through all the years?
"Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this" (v.18). At that time, no doubt Job did not know the earth was formed as a tremendous ball rotating in space. But even today, though we are told the earth is 25,000 miles in circumference, who can possibly comprehend the greatness of this? Though scientists have learned a great deal about God's creation, yet the more they learn, the more evident it becomes that their ignorance is far greater than their knowledge.
"Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place?" (v.19). God had said, "Let there be light" on the first day of the remaking of the earth (Gen.1:3), before the sun was set in its place on the fourth day. Some scientists have considered that the sun was the source of light, but further searching has persuaded them that there is light apart from the sun. Where does it come from? We do not know any more about this than Job did. Thus, the origin of light or the origin of darkness are matters of which mankind is totally ignorant.
Could Job take the light or the darkness back to its original place of dwelling? (v.20). The very question would not have arisen in men's minds, but God raises it simply to show how greatly man's knowledge is limited. The irony of verse 21 is striking. Was Job born when light was introduced? Had he lived so many years? Of course these words of God are simply intended to put Job in his place.
THE ELEMENTS (vv.22-30)
The Lord now turns to bring to Job's attention the many elements of the weather, which continually affect people in various ways, - the snow, hail, wind, rain, frost and dew. Amazingly, every snowflake (of which there are trillions) is beautifully designed in a pattern of six points, yet none have ever been found to be identical to another! Snow provides a cover for earth in winter to protect the ground from freezing deeply. In the snow there are treasures of which Job was totally ignorant, and similarly in the hail. While the snow may be for protection, the hail is reserved for times of trouble, battle and war. Both snow and hail are frozen water, but how different they are when falling on earth!
Man likes to think of himself as in control of things, but can he control the snow or the hail or the wind? (vv.22-24). Verse 24 inserts the matter of the way in which light is diffused before speaking of the east wind. For Job was to realise that the light of God was involved in all His actions, and just as definitely at work when He sent His east wind of strong adversity. God's ways had really been darkness to Job, so he did not understand the way God was diffusing His light.
Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one?" (vv.25-26). Sometimes the rain causes overflowing floods, sometimes even where there are no inhabitants, yet also sometimes where the inhabitants are greatly affected by it. But God's work is not confined to the needs of humans, little as we may understand these things. Our mere human thoughts centre around ourselves, which is only unseemly pride. God's thoughts are infinitely higher than we naturally imagine (Isa.55:8-9).
"Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew?" (v.28). Where and when the rain falls may seem to us totally haphazard, but it is dependent simply on the will of our God and Father, who never makes a mistake. Similarly, frost is always sent by Him in perfect wisdom for every occasion (v.29). How it is possible for water to harden like stone is only explained by God's law in sending the cold (v.30). Who really understands this?
THE HEAVENLY BODIES (vv.31-33)
Job had spoken of "the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades" (ch.9:9), so that he knew something of astronomy. The Lord draws his attention first to the Pleiades, meaning "the heap of stars," asking if Job can "bind the chains of the Pleiades." Astronomers discovered "that the whole solar system is moving forward around Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades" (Fausset's Bible Encyclopaedia - p. 576). While the planets revolve around the sun, the sun and all the planets revolve around Alcyone at the rate of 422,000 miles per day! Such are the chains (or "binds") of the Pleiades that captivate the whole solar system. Could Job bind such influences? Or could he loose the belt of Orion, the force that keeps Orion in its orbit? Could he bring out Mazzaroth (the constellations of stars) in their proper season? Could he guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
Thus the stars of the heavens were a matter of common knowledge at this early date in history, and the names have remained the same. But did Job know the ordinances God had established in the heavens? Did he even understand the relationship the stars had to the earth, let alone being able to set those stars in places of dominion over the earth? Astrologers try to correlate the movement of the stars with the events of earth, but their efforts only expose their utter ignorance.
HOW ARE CLOUDS CONTROLLED? (vv.34-38)
These verses conclude the first section of God's answer to Job, for it is clear that Chapter 39 should begin with verse 39 of Chapter 38. He had spoken of the rain in verses 25-28, now He adds a question as to whether Job could give orders to the clouds to drop their water when Job desired it (v.34). We may see the clouds dark and heavy and think at such a time that we could tell the clouds to pour out their rain, but it may be that no rain falls at all. Lightning may trigger a rainfall, but who can send the lightning? (v.35). If man does have any wisdom at all, who has put it in his mind? Is he to have the credit for this? Or does he manufacture his own understanding? (v.36). If one thinks he is wise, let him number the clouds! They are so constantly changing and on the move, often amazing in their magnificence, that we are wise simply to observe and marvel at the display they present, rather than to think of numbering them. May such lessons deeply impress us.
GOD'S CARE FOR HIS CREATURES (ch.38:39 to 39:30)
THE BEASTS OF PREY (vv.38-41)
God is not only infinitely great, but He has a heart of kindness and care for all His creation. In this section He begins with the beasts of prey, with which we should not likely begin, for we think of them as needing no outside care for they are predators. But they require the care of God as do all other creatures. God has made them as they are and provides for them in the fact of their being able to hunt their own food. Who would think of hunting food for them, at least while they are in the wilds? "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God" (Ps. 104:21).
Even Satan (who is spoken of as "a roaring lion" - 1 Pet.5:8) is dependent on God for his very existence. It was Satan who implied to Eve that God was not good in withholding from her and her husband the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3: 1); yet Satan has himself benefited by God's goodness since the time of his creation.
The raven is a bird of prey (v.41), but if God did not provide the prey for them and their young, how could they continue to exist? Interestingly, it is said here, "its young ones cry to God." Whether intelligently or not is not the question, but God recognises their cry. If so, did God not hear the cry of Job? Of course He did, though He did not answer Job at just the time and in the way that Job thought He ought to.
THE WILD GOATS AND THE DEER (vv.1-4)
The Lord now turns Job's attention to animals not in the least aggressive, the wild goats and the deer. Indeed, rather than aggressive, they are elusive. Did Job understand all about them? - when they bear their young, how many months of gestation, etc. How much Job knew at the time we do not know, but even though there is more general knowledge of these things now, how many people know by practical experience with the animals themselves all about such matters? Why also do the young grow strong quickly, then leave their parents, not to return?
While man does not care for these animals, God does; and if God cares for these climbers of the rocks, how much more does He care for humans who have the adversity of difficulties that may seem insurmountable? Let Job consider this well.
THE WILD DONKEY (vv.5-8)
The wild donkey is a totally different type of creature, found mainly in the plains or wilderness. Man just does not control the habits of this animal that is 'free as the breeze." Though living in "the barren land," he is somehow sustained by God in finding food. He avoids the tumult of the city and is not like the tame donkey that must obey the direction of a driver.
The lower ranges of the mountains (not the rocks) supply his pasture, where he may find green vegetation. Would men have even thought of creating an animal like this? But in some respects Job was like the wild donkey, - independent, rebellious, wanting his own way. Thus, he had another object lesson to consider.
THE WILD ANTELOPE (vv.9-12)
The wild ox is understood to be a large antelope that is untameable. Can its will be subdued by men as domesticated cattle are, so that it willingly serves the authority of man? (v.9). Would it willingly lie down in a manger where cattle are quite content? Could Job make it to plod in a furrow, pulling a plough as oxen were taught to do? (v.10). The strength of the antelope was more than sufficient for this, but how could man make use of such strength? Could he trust such an animal to bring home grain from the field? (v.12). Of course the answer to all these questions is negative, but this serves to teach us that there is much diversity in God's creation that is beyond man to even understand, and to show up man's limitations in contrast to God's unlimited resources. Job was in need of lessons like this, as no doubt all mankind is.
THE OSTRICH (vv.13-18)
The ostrich is another most interesting creature of God, - a bird, but not a flying bird, using its wings only to help it run at a fast rate. Also, unlike other birds, she makes no comfortable nest in which to lay her eggs, and to hide them from predators, but leaves them in the ground, warming them in the dust, in places where beasts or men may walk, not considering that these eggs are in danger of being easily broken (vv.14-15).
Also, she treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers (v.16). How unlike most mother birds or animals! Why is this so? "Because God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding" (v.17). Sad to say, some human mothers act like the ostrich in this matter, but it is abnormal. But Job was to learn from the ostrich that God does not do what man might naturally expect, nor does God need to give us His reasons. The speed of the ostrich also is amazing, far exceeding the speed of a horse (v.18). Why? Because God chose to make it this way.
THE HORSE (vv.19-25)
The Lord now turns to consider the horse, a domesticated animal, having great strength and remarkably fearless, yet controlled by his rider. Had Job given such strength to this amazing creature? (v.19). Or could he frighten him? (v.20). It is a war horse particularly in this case, an animal that "gallops into the clash of arms" (v.21). He does not shy away from danger, but rushes right into it. Swordsmen opposing him do not slow him down (v.22). The spear and the javelin mean nothing to him, but the clash of arms seems only to increase his fierceness and rage (v.24). Though he is not a wild animal, when engaged in war, he seems to have the qualities of the wildest of animals. The sound of the trumpet does not stop him, but spurs him on (vv.24-25): as long as the noise and shouting of the battle continues, he continues his advance.
Again, this is another creature that man would not have thought of creating, specially any man who was a lover of peace, and Job is faced with this as another object lesson to tell him God is greater than Job.
THE HAWK AND THE EAGLE (vv.26-30))
The Lord here returns to consider two creatures that prey on others. Was it Job who decided the hawk should fly southward when winter approaches? (v.26). Of course scientists would say it is by instinct that birds migrate to a warmer climate. But polar bears, for instance, do not have this instinct, nor do penguins. Who gave this instinct to some birds? Only their Creator. It is certainly not lack of food that moves them, for they leave the northern areas even when food is plentiful. Jeremiah 8:7 speaks of some birds, "The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming."
Job is told to consider the eagle too. Did Job command it to rise in flight to tremendous heights of the mountains? (vv.27-28). In fact, if man in being created, had never seen a bird, would it even enter his mind to create such a creature? From the highest heights the eagle observes its prey (v.29), having amazing eyes that see a small creature from the greatest distances and descends as rapidly as an arrow to catch its prey and bear it to its young ones in the nest.
Also, "where the slain are, there it is" (v.30). The horse has rushed into the battle, and the eagle follows to feast on the flesh of the fallen. How this reminds us of Revelation 19:17-18: "Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, 'Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."' All this tells us that God has a means of carrying out His judgments, whether man understands it or not. Job was to learn from this that the One who made the eagle and its penetrating eyes, surely has eyes more keen than the eagle, and His judgments can be fully trusted.
GOD'S CHALLENGE AND JOB'S RESPONSE (vv.1-5)
Job had said that if God would only listen to him, he would present his whole case in showing how God was unfair in His dealings (ch.33:3-5). Therefore now God gives Job opportunity to do this. He asks Job, "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it" (v.2). Where were Job's arguments then? How withering were God's words to the unseemly pride of Job!
He says, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further" (vv.4-5). Job goes deeper here than apologising for what he has said, for he expresses his judgment of himself personally. Indeed, how true it is that we ourselves, in our sinful nature, are worse than the worst thing we have ever said or done. Then he judges also what he had spoken more than once, and says he lays his hand over his mouth, just as Romans 3:19 says of all mankind, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."
GOD'S FURTHER QUESTIONS TO JOB (40:6 - 41:34)
The whirlwind had continued a long time, and is still blowing when the Lord speaks in these verses. The whirlwind itself was intended to impress Job with the fact that every circumstance of swirling troubles and confusion was under the controlling hand of the Creator. "The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet" (Nahum 1:3).
"Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me" (v.7). These questions of the Lord continue through Chapter 41, so that Job's answer is found in Chapter 42:1-6. But the Lord had deeper work to accomplish in Job's soul, and His questions probe the depths of Job's heart as Job had never expected to be probed.
The Lord had told Job to prepare himself like a man to answer the questions God would ask. Now He asks him first, "Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?" How withering are such words! - but Job needed them, for he had inferred that God was unfair, while he himself was righteous! Such pride needed to be brought down to the dust. At least, power was not on Job's side, but with God. Had he an arm like God?. Could he speak in thunder, as God does? Let him adorn himself with majesty and splendour, with glory and beauty, and disperse the rage of his wrath (vv.10-11). God could do this. Could Job? Rather, at the very thought of such power, Job should be impressed with his own utter impotence. But he is further told, "Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you" (vv.12-14) The irony of such words is evident; Job needed humbling himself. How could he even hope to humble others? But there are many proud people today. We are helpless to humble any of them, but God will bring down the pride of everyone to the dust.
Could Job's right hand save him? (v.14). No more than that he could humble everyone who is proud. Job had to learn that only the living God is the Saviour, and that He saves, not those who deserve it but those who are humbled to the dust to recognise they deserve nothing but judgment. God saves by grace, through the great value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus at Calvary. Of course at that time Job knew nothing of that great sacrifice, but he could still know that he was a sinner, dependent only on the grace of God.
BEHEMOTH, A GREAT LAND ANIMAL (vv.15-24)
Speaking of greatness and power, God draws attention now to a huge animal of great strength, which he calls "behemoth." Some have thought this refers to a hippopotamus, but that animal has a small tail, while behemoth "moves his tail like a cedar" (v.17). Perhaps this animal has now become extinct, for its tail seems to resemble that of a dinosaur. Some think the dinosaurs were destroyed in the flood, others, that some continued after the flood, and later became extinct.
But though behemoth ate grass, like an ox (v.15), his strength was greater than that of the lion, which feeds on meat of other animals. In behemoth every part of his anatomy contributed to his exceptional strength (vv.16-18), his loins, his body, legs and bones and even his tail. Strikingly, we are told, "he is the first of the ways of God" (v.19). God has created him as an object lesson for us of resistless strength. Only the God who made him can bring him down to nothing, symbolically to subject him to the judgment of the sword.
God has supplied food for him also (v.20), while he might lie down without fear of anything, though other beasts practically surrounded him. He is the very picture of self-confident power. Even the river may rage while he is at peace (v.23). He drinks in great amounts of water rather then be drowned in it.
Thus, he is untameable and uncontrollable. Man could do nothing with him as he does with an ox or a horse. Also he was totally selfish: he was of no service to any man or animal. Would Job want to be like this, strong and self-confident, with no real object of being of help to others?
The character of behemoth is similar to that of many strong, capable men, men who know how to subdue others, but have no heart to be of help to them. Does this not remind us of 1 John 2:18, "as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come." Behemoth thus seems to be specially symbolical of Antichrist, since he is a land animal, for Antichrist will rise out of the land (of Israel), as Revelation 13: 11 shows us. The first beast of that Chapter rises out of the sea (of the Gentile nations), and may well be typified by leviathan, of Job 41. It is God who has made him, though he refuses to recognise God.
Leviathan was a water creature, and appears to be the crocodile, the most fearsome of all aquatic beasts, unless it was another similar animal, now extinct. Job could use a hook to catch fish, but how futile the thought of a hook for a crocodile! (v.1). His jaws and his nose are impervious to any kind of attack (v.2). Could Job persuade him to respond softly to him in order to bring about his submission? (v.4). The very appearance of the crocodile is hostile and intimidating. He would certainly never be tamed to engage in play like some birds or animals, and certainly not as a pet for girls! (v.5). Who would think of trying to obtain his flesh to make a dinner of him? Harpoons were useless against him, for they could not penetrate his outer covering (v.7). If one was bold enough to lay his hand on him, let him remember the battle encountered in any such efforts, and never do it again! (v.8).
The Lord assures Job that any hope of overcoming Leviathan is futile: the very sight of the beast should overwhelm his would-be attacker. No human is so fierce that he would dare to stir up such a creature (v.10). But let us remember it is God who made this beast: Who then could possibly stand against God? Thus we are shown the fearful, untameable character of leviathan, as wild and unapproachable as behemoth, and this reminds us of the first beast of Revelation 13, the beast who rises out of the sea (v.1). Being a water creature, Leviathan evidently symbolises the Gentile power that will arise during the Tribulation period, a revival of the Roman Empire, embracing ten nations who "give their power and authority to the beast" (Rev.17:13). This empire is called the Beast, and the man who rules over it will also be called the Beast. Of him people will say, "Who is like the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?" (Rev.13:4). This Beast, along with the Antichrist, will form a powerful union of such strength that they will not be afraid to challenge their own Creator! While no man can stand before them, however, the Lord will bring them down to a defeat of abject humiliation, and both will be cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev.19:20).
But the Lord says of Leviathan, "I will not conceal his limbs, his mighty power, or his graceful proportions" (v.12). The Lord would not hesitate to describe him exactly as he is, to let us know that the Lord knew him perfectly and took full account of his strength. "Who can remove his outer coat? Who can approach him with a double bridle? Who can open the doors of his face, with his terrible teeth all around? (vv.13-14). Men have captured crocodiles and put them in large pools of water, but who would dare to get into the same pool, as some do with dolphins?
"His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal: one is so near another that no air can come between them: they are joined one to another, they stick together, and cannot be parted" (vv.15-17). Thus he is protected as by a coat of armour. The Roman Beast too will employ every means of protecting himself against the attacks of any enemy.
But he will take the offensive also, as does the crocodile. "His sneezings flash forth light and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights. Sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his mouth" (vv.18-21). Of course this is figurative language, and speaks of the vicious words that proceed from the mouth of the Beast, as we are told of him in Revelation 13:5-6, "He was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven." But the appearance of light, as though the beast brought light and wisdom with him, is a false show. The boastful pride of this man and his ominous threats are strikingly illustrated in the character of Leviathan.
"Strength dwells in his neck" (v.22), for his neck is stiffened in rebellion against God. "And sorrow dances before him" - as though sorrow was trying to clothe itself with spurious joy, yet only to bring misery and wretchedness. "The folds of his flesh" are so joined as to make him invulnerable to attack (v.23), and underneath his heart is as hard as a stone. What a picture of the great champion of infidelity, who will arise because the world has rejected the faithful, gracious Lord of glory, and this beast will think of himself as the saviour of the world!
The mighty men of earth will be afraid when this man asserts himself (v.25). Neither the sword, spear, dart or javelin can penetrate Leviathan's armour (v.26), and all men's efforts to defeat the Beast will be to no avail. Iron and bronze weapons, arrows, darts, slingstones and javelins are useless against him (vv.27-29). Underneath too he is equipped to resist attack (v.30).
"He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointments" (v.31). As Leviathan stirs up the water, so the Roman Beast will stir up the nations (the sea) in tumultuous trouble. The "shining wake" he leaves behind him tells us that there will be marked results from the Beast's activity.
"On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear" (v.33). God has made this creature as a picture of the assumed greatness of the Roman Beast, who will rise as the champion of mankind in his opposition both to God and to the true welfare of the people. He will aspire to every high thing, a "king over all the children of pride" (v.34).
When this Roman Beast arises, he will be in league with the Antichrist who will erect an idolatrous image in the temple area of Jerusalem in honour of the Beast (Rev.13:14-15). This will be the ultimate peak of man's pride, an arrogant challenge against God. Then the Lord Jesus will meet this challenge in awesome power, and both of these enemies of God will be "cast alive into the lake of fire" (Rev.19:19-20). Such will be the fearful end of him who "is king over all the children of pride." What a lesson for us to learn now to judge our own pride!
JOBS REPENTANCE AND PRAYER (vv.1-9)
Who would not be totally subdued after hearing God speak such things as He did to Job? What a change took place in Job's attitude and in his words! He was humbled to the dust, as he says, "I know You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (vv.2-3). He now realises that his words before had been moved by ignorance of God, who "can do everything." This expression reminds us of Peter's words to the Lord Jesus, "Lord, You know all things" (Jn.21:17). Peter needed to learn the same lesson that Job needed, for Peter too had expressed too much confidence in the flesh when he insisted that he would not deny the Lord Jesus though all others did. Job fully admits to the Lord that he had spoken without knowledge of what he was saying, - things too wonderful for him, that is, he sought to deal with matters that were wonderful beyond his understanding and found himself humiliated.
Now Job speaks because the Lord had told him to answer what the Lord said (v.4). His answer was, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (vv.5-6). Though Job had heard something about the Lord, it was not enough to meet Job's actual need. Now he was brought face to face with the greatness and glory of the Lord, with the result, "I abhor myself." It was not simply a matter of what he had done that he abhorred, but himself. This was the root of what he may have done, and it was this root that God was dealing with, that is, the pride of Job's very character. Every believer needs to be brought down to this very point.
What a contrast was this to the way in which Job had persistently sought to defend himself in all his words to his friends! However strong may be the pride of any person, absolutely everyone will eventually be humbled down to the dust. Unbelievers may all their life persist in this proud arrogance, but after death their humiliation will be all the more traumatic for them. How much better for us to be humbled before God in sober self-judgment before God must bring to bear the humiliation of a person's being cast into the lake of fire!
The Lord had then to deal with Job's three friends, telling them his anger had been aroused against them for what they had spoken when thinking they were speaking for God. They had misrepresented Him, not speaking for Him what was right, "as My servant Job has" (v.7). Job's speaking right of course refers to Job's words to God in verses 2-6.
God told these friends to go to Job and in his presence offer up to God a burnt offering of seven bulls and seven rams (v.8) The burnt offering pictures the offering of the Lord Jesus as that which brought glory to God. These friends would be humbled too in thus acknowledging their pathetic failure before Job. But Job was not to reproach them then, but to pray for them, which we may be sure he was glad to do! Apart from a sacrifice God would have to deal with them according to their sin, but He saw fit to use Job as an intermediary and the sacrifice a necessary provision for their forgiveness. In this way God made both Job and his friends to feel the shame of the way they had previously spoken. Job was to pray for them and they were to learn through Job's praying for them that their previous criticism of Job had been totally wrong.
Job's friends obeyed the Lord in this matter, and it is added, "for the Lord accepted Job" (v.9). This is an illustration of James 5:16, "the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much".
JOB'S FULL RESTORATION (vv.10-17)
Wonderful was the result of Job's praying for his friends! Because his attitude was so changed, the Lord restored all his losses, and added much more (v.10), giving him twice as much in possessions as he had previously owned. Of course, he would no longer have his sore boils or other physical afflictions, and his brothers and sister and many previous acquaintances came to him on friendly terms, eating with him and giving him presents of silver and gold. Those who had avoided him became the most friendly. The restoration of his possessions was as rapid as his previous losses had been. The number of his livestock is astonishing. Besides this he was blessed with the same number of sons and daughters he had previously had (v.13). Thus he had twice as many children, though the first ten were then in heaven.
Today those who know the Lord Jesus cannot expect to be blessed with material blessings, but rather are "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Job's children too were highly favoured, his daughters being the most beautiful in all the land. After this experience of Job he lived 140 years (v.16), so that perhaps his age at death was similar to that of Abraham (175 years); but believers today are blessed with the knowledge of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.